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Ernst Cassirer was born in Breslau on July 28, 1874. 
Upon graduation from the University of Berlin, he con- 
tinued his studies in philosophy at the University of 
Marburg. He taught at the Universities of Berlin and’ 
Hamburg until his departure from Germany in 1932 to 
accept an appointment at Oxford. In 1941, Cassirer 
came to America to teach at Yale where he remained 
until 1944. The last year of his life was spent as a visit- 
ing professor at Columbia University. He died in New 
York on April 13, 1945. 

Cassirer's first works were in the field of epistemology. 
By 1904, he had completed the first two volumes of his 
monumental four-volume history of epistemology, The 
Problem of Knowledge, the final volume of which was 
in the process of translation at the time of his death. 
His first great systematic work, Substance and Function, 
was published in 1910. 

After the First World War, Cassirer began working 
out the theory of symbolic forms, his major contribution 
to twentieth-century philosophy, which has earned him 
a place with Bergson, Croce, Dewey, Santayana, and 
Whitehead. Tire three volumes of The Philosophy of 
Symbolic Forms were brought out between 1923 and 
1929, and the first of these to appear in America has 
recently been published by the Yale University Press. 

The last twelve years of Cassirer’s life were devoted to 
an application of the philosophy of symbolic forms to 
the various realms of human culture— to art and the 
social sciences. An Essay on Man, completed in 1944, 
is the major work of this period. 

To Charles W. Hendel 
in friendship and gratitude 


An Introduction 
to a Philosophy of Human Culture 








An Essay on Man - 

The Myth of the State 

The Problem of Knowledge 

The Philosophy of Symbolic Forms, Volume 1 

Originally Published on the Louis Stem Memorial Fund 
Copyright, 1944, by Yale Ouivcrsily Press 
Reprinted by Arrangement with Yale University Press 
All Rights Reserved 
Printed in the United States 



1 The Crisis in Man’s Knowledge of Himself 15 

2 A Clue to the Nature of Man: the Symbol 41 

3 From Animal Reactions to Human Responses 44 

4 The Human World of Space and Time 62 

5 Facts and Ideals 79 


6 Tire Definition of Man in Terms of Human 

Culture 87 

7 Myth and Religion 97 

8 Language 142 

9 Art 176 

10 History 217 

1 1 Science 261 

12 Summary and Conclusion 278 

Index 287 


The first impulse for the writing of this book came from my 
English and American friends who lcpeatcdly and urgently 
asked me to publish an English translation of my Philosophy 
of Symbolic Forms. 1 Although I should have liked very much 
to comply with their request, after the first tentative steps I 
found it impracticable and, under the present circumstances, 
unjustifiable to reproduce the former book in its entirety. As 
for the reader, it would have taxed his attention to the utmost 
to read a three-volume study dealing with a difficult and ab- 
stract subject, But even from the point of view of the author 
it was scarcely possible or advisable to publish a work planned 
and written more than twenty-five years ago. Since that time 
the author has continued his study on the subject, He has 
learned many new facts and he has been confronted with new 
problems, Even the old problems are seen by him from a 
different angle and appear in a new light. For all these reasons 
1 decided to make a fresh start and to write an entirely new 
book. This book had to be much shorter than the first one, "A 
big book," said Lessing, “is a big evil." When writing my 
Philosophy of Symbolic Forms I was so engrossed in the sub- 
ject itself that I forgot or neglected this stylistic maxim, Now 
I feel much more inclined to subscribe to Lessing’s words, In- 
stead of giving a detailed account of facts and a lengthy dis- 
cussion of theories I have tried in this present hook to 
concentrate upon a few points that seemed to me to be of 
special philosophical importance and to express my thoughts 
as briefly and succinctly as possible. 

Still the book has had to deal with subjects that, at first 
sight, may seem to be widely divergent. A book concerned 
with psychological, ontological, epistemological questions and 
containing chapters on Myth and Religion, Language and Art, 
on Science and History, is open to the objection that it is a 
mixtum compositum of the most disparate and heterogeneous 
things. I hope that the reader after having read these pages 
will find this objection to be unfounded, It was one of my 
principal aims to convince him that all the subjects dealt with 
in this book are, after all, only one subject. They are different 

i. 5 vols,, Berlin, Bruno Cassirer, 1923-29, „ 

toads leading to a common eenter-and, to my mind, it is for 
a philosophy of culture to find out and to determine this 

As to the style of the book it has been, of course, a serious 
drawback that I have had to write it in a language that is not 
my native tongue. I should hardly have overcome this obstacle 
without the help of my friend James Pettegrove, of New Jscsey 
State Teachers College. He has revised the whole manuscript 
and given me his kind advice on all linguistic and stylistic 
questions. But 1 am also very much indebted to him for many 
valuable and pertinent remarks regarding the subject matter 
of the hook. 

I did not mean to write a “popular” book on a subject that, 
in many respects, is resistant to any popularization. On the 
other hand this book is nut destined for scholars or philoso- 
phers alone. The fundamental problems of human culture 
have a general human interest, and they should be made 
accessible to the general public. I have tried, therefore, to 
avoid all technicalities and to express my thoughts as clearly 
and simply as possible. My critics should, however, be warned 
that what I could give here is more an explanation and illus- 
tration than a demonstration of my theory. For a closer dis- 
cussion and analysis of the problems involved I must ask them 
to go hack to the detailed description in my Philosophy of 
Symbolic Forms, 

It is my serious wish not to impose a ready-made theory, ex- 
pressed in a dogmatic style, upon the minds of my readers. I 
have been anxious to place them in a position to judge for 
themselves. Of course it has not been possible to lay before 
their eyes the whole bulk of empirical evidence upon which 
my principal thesis rests. But I have tried at least to give ample 
and detailed quotations from the standard works on the vari- 
ous subjects. What the reader will find is not at all a complete 
bibliography-even the titles of such a bibliography would 
have far exceeded the space that has been allowed me. I have 
had to content myself with citing those authors to whom I 
myself feel most indebted and with selecting those examples 
that seemed to me to be of typical significance and of para- 
mount philosophical interest. 

By the dedication to Charles W. Hendel I wish to expiess 
my feeling of deep gratitude lo the man who, with indefati- 
gable zeal, helped me to prepare this book, He was the first to 
whom I spoke about its general plan. Without his keen interest 
in the subject matter of the book and his friendly personal 
interest in its author I should hardly have found the courage 
to publish it. He has read the manuscript several times, and I 
have always been able to accept his critical suggestions. They 
have proved to be veiy helpful and valuable. 

The dedication has, however, not only a personal but also 
a "symbolic 1 ’ meaning. By dedicating this book to the Chair- 
man of the Department of Philosophy and to the Director of 
Graduate Studies at Yale University I wish to expiess to the 
Department itself my cordial thanks. When, three years ago, I 
came to Yale University it was an agreeable surprise to find a 
close cooperation that extended to a wide field. It was a special 
pleasure and a great privilege to work together with my 
younger colleagues in conjoint seminars on various subjects. 
This was, indeed, a new experience in my long academic life 
-and a very interesting and stimulating one. I shall always 
keep in grateful memory these conjoint seminars-one in the 
philosophy of history, another in the philosophy of science, a 
third in the theory of knowledge, held by Charles Hendel and 
Hajo Holborn, F. S. C. Northrop and Henry Maigenau, Mon- 
roe Beardsley, Frederic Fitch, and Charles Stevenson. 

I have to regard this book, to a large extent, as an outcome 
of my work at the Graduate School of Yale University and I 
avail myself of this opportunity to express my thanks to the 
Dean of the Graduate School, Edgai S. Funnss, for the hospi- 
tality offered to me these last three years. A word of cordial 
thanks is also due to my students. I have discussed with the ’ 
almost all the problems contained in this book and I tru 
that they will find many traces of.ouv common wprk in the 
following pages. 

I am grateful to the Fluid Research Fund of Yale Univer 
sity for a research grant that helped me to prepare this book 

Yale University 

Ernst Cassirer 


The Ciisis in Man’s Knowledge of Himself 

z That self-knowledge is the highest aim of philosophi- 
cal inquiry appears to be generally acknowledged. In all the 
conflicts between the different philosophical schools this ob- 
jective remained invariable and unshaken: it proved to be the’ 
Archimedean point, the fixed and immovable center, of all 
thought, Nor did the most sceptical thinke rs deny the possibil- 
ity and necessity of self-knowledge. They distrusted all general 
(principles concerning the nature of thin^BuTtlris distrust 
was only meant to open a new and more reliable mode of in- 
vestigation, In the history of philosophy scepticism has very' 
often been simply the counterpart of a resolute humanism. 
By the denial and destruction of the objective certainty of the 
e xternal worl d the sceptic hopes to throw all the thoughts of 
man back upon his own bein g. Self-knowledge-he declares- > 
jja* the first prerequisite of self-realization. We must try to 
b reak the ch ain connecting us with the outer world in order 
to enjoy our true freedom. “La plus grande chose dvr monde 
e'est de scavoir 6tre i soy,” writes Montaigne. 

Yet even this approach to the problem-the method of in- 
trospection— is not secure against sceptical doubts’ Modem 
philosophy began with the principle that the evidence of out 
own being is impregnable and unassailable. But the advance 
of psychological knowledge has hardly confirmed this Carte- 
sian principle. The general tendency of thought is nowadays 
again directed toward the opposite pole. Few modern psycho- 
logists would admit or recommend a mere method of intro- 
$spection. In general they tell us that such a method is very 


precarious. They are convinced that a strictly objective be- 
havioristic attitude is the only possible approach to a scien- 
tific psychology. But a consistent and radical behaviorism fails 
to attain its end. It can warn us against possible methodologi- 
cal errors, but it cannot solve all the problems of human psy- 
chology. We may criticize or suspect the purely introspective 
view, hut we cannot suppress or eliminate it. Without in- 
trospection, without an immediate awareness of feelings, emo- 
tions, perceptions, thoughts, we could not even define the 
field of human psychology. Vet it must he admitted that by 
following this way alone wc can never arrive at a comprehen- 
sive view of human nature. Introspection reveals to us only 
that small sector of human life which is accessible to onr 
individual experience. It can never cover tire whole field ot 
human phenomena. Even if we should succeed in collecting 
'and combining all the data, we should still have a very meager 
and fragmentary picture-a mere torso-of human nature. 

Aristotle declares that all human knowledge originates from 
a basic tendency of human nature manifesting itself in man’s 
most elementary actions and reactions. The whole extent oS 
the life of the senses is determined by and impregnated with 
this tendency. 

"AH men by nature desire to know. An indication of this is 
tlie delight we take in our senses; for even apart from their use- 
fulness they are loved for themselves; and above all others 
flic sense of sight. For not only with a view to action, but 
even when we are not going to do anything we prefer seeing td 
everything else. The reason is that this, most of all senses, 
makes us know and brings to light many differences between 
things,” 1 This passage is highly characteristic of Aristotle’s 
conception of knowledge as distinguished from Plato’s. Such 
a philosophical eulogy of man’s sensuous life would he im- 
possible in the work of Plato, He could never compare th| 
d esire for know ledge with the "delight we take in ojjr^ssrises.’ 
InPlato the Hfeof the senses is separated from the life of the 
intellect by a broad and insurmountable gulf. Knowledge and 

1. Aristotle, Metaphysics, Hook A. j 9 So" at. English trans. by W 
D. Ross, The Works of Aristotle (Oxford, Clarendon Press, 1924) 
Vo). VIII. 



truth belong to a transcendental order-to the realm of pure 
and eternal ideas, Even Aristotle is convinced that scientific 
Inowledge is not possible through the act of perception alone. 
B ut he speaks as a bio l ogist when h e . denies this Platonic 
severance between the ideal and the empirical world . He at- 
tempts to explain the ideal world, the world ofjcngwlttlgejlh 
tfefr&"SriiKriSrhfffirTeSiISVaccor3mgTo^?istotle > we find 
tfielanm'unhroken continuity. In natnre as well as in human 
knowledge the higher forms develop from the lower forms. 
tS ense perceptio n, memory , e xperience , im agination , and regr. 
son are all linked together hy a common bond; they are merely 
different stages and different expressions of one and the Same 
fundamental activity, which attains its highest perfection in 
jjian, but which in a way is shared hy the animals and all the 
forms of organic life. 

If we were to adopt this biological view we should expect 
that the first stages of human knowledge would deal exclu- 
sively with the external world. For all his immediate needs 
and practical interests man is dependent on his physical en- 
vironment. He cannot live without constantly adapting him- 
self to the conditions of the surrounding world. The initial 
steps towar d man's int ell ectual and c ultural life may'bi rde': 
scribed as acts which invol ve a sort of mental adjust ment til- 
thc irnme3rat(fenvironnient. But as human culture progresses 
we verylOTff'nfteT'mEh an opposite tendency of human life. 
From the earliest glimmering of human consciousness we find 
'-fjn introvert view of life accompanying and complementing 
.this extrovert view. The farther we trace the development of 
human culture from these beginnings the more this introvert 
view seems to come to the fore. Man’s natural curiosity begin s 
slowly t o change its d irection . We can study this growth in 
ahnostairfHcTorniF of the cultural life of man. InThe first 
mythological explanations of the universe we always find a’ 
primitive anthropology side by side with a primitive cosmol- 
ogy. Tire question of the origin of the world is inextricably 
interwoven with the question of the origin of man. Religion 
does not destroy these first mythological explanations. On the 
contrary, it preserves the mythological cosmology and anthro- 
pology by giving them new shape and new depth. Henceforth 


self-knowledge is not conceived as a merely theoretical in- 
terest. I ds not simply a subject of curiosity or specula tion; it 
is declared to ]x th e fundamental oblig ation of wanTThe 
greaTreligipiif thinkers were the first to rnttHcliiTEsTnoral 
requirement. In all the higher forms of religious life the maxim 
"Know thyself' is regarded as a categorical imperative, as an 
ultimate moral and religious law. In this imperative we feel, 
as it were, a sudden reversal of the first natural instinct to 
know-we perceive a transvaluation of all values. In the his- 
tories of all the religions of the world-in Judaism, Buddhismj 
Confucianism, and Christianity-we can observe the individ- 
ual s teps ofthis development. 

The same principle holds good in the general evolution of 
philosophical thought. In its earliest stages Greek philosophy, 
seems exclusively concerned with the physical universe. Cos- 
mology clearly predominates over all the other branches of 
philosophical investigation. It is, however, characteristic of the 
depth and comprehensiveness of the Greek mind that almost' 
every individual thinker represents at the same time a new 
general type of thought. Beyond the physical philosophy of 
the Milesian School the Pythagoreans discover a mathematical 
philosophy, while the Eleatic thinkers are the first to conceive 
the ideal of a logical philosophy. Heraclitus stands on 
the border line between cosmological and anthiopological 
thought. Although he still speaks as a natural philosopher, 
and he belongs to the "ancient physiologists," yet he is com 
vinced that it is impossible to penetrate into tW secret of m* 
ture without having studied the secret of man.AVe must fulfil 
the demand of self-reflection if we wish to keep hold of reality 
and to understand its meaning. Hence it was possible for 
Heraclitus to characterize the whole of his philosophy by the 
two words edizisttmin eraauton ("I have sought for my- 
self") , s But this new tendency of thought, although in a sens$ 
inherent in early Greek philosophy, did not come to its full 
maturity until the time of Socrates. Thus it is in the problem 
of man that we find the landmark separating Socratic from 
pre-Socratic thought. Socrates never attacks or criticizes the 

X. Fragment 101, in Diels, Die Fragments der Vorsokratiker, ed. ly 
W. Krants (5th ed. Berlin, 1934}, 1 , 173. 


theories of his predecessors. He does not intend to introduce 
ji new philosophical doctrine. Yet in him all the former prob- 
lems are seen in a new light because they are referred to a 
new intellectual center. The problems of Greek natural phi- 
losophy and of Greek metaphysics are suddenly eclipsed by a 
new question which seems henceforth to absorb man’s whole 
theoretical interest. In Socrates we no longer have an inde- 
pendent theory of nature or an independent logical theory. 
We do not even have a coherent and systematic ethical theory 
*-in that sense in which it was developed in the later ethical 
systems. Only one question remains: What is man? Socrates 
always maintains and defends the ideal of an objective, ab- 
solute, universal truth. But the only universe be knows, and to 
^■hich all his inquiries refer, is the universe of man. His phi- 
losophy— if lie possesses a philosophy— is strictly anthropologi- 
cal. In one of the Platonic dialogues Socrates is described as' 
being engaged in a conversation with his pupil Phaedrus. 
They are walking, and after a short time they come to a place 
outside the gates of Athens. Socrates bursts into admiration 
for the beauty of the spot. lie is delighted with the land- 
scape, which he praises highly, But Phaedrus interrupts. He is 
surprised that Socrates behaves like a stranger who is being 
shown about by a guide. “Do you ever cross the border?” he 
asks. Socrates puts symbolic meaning into his reply. "Very 
true, my good friend," he replies, “and I hope that you will 
excuse me when you hear the reason, which is, that I am a 
■ Javer of knowledge, and the men who dwell in the city are my 
teachers, and not the trees, or the country.” 5 
Yet when we study Plato’s Socratic dialogues novidiere do 
we find a direct solution of the new problem. Socrates gives 
us a detailed and meticulous analysis of individual human 
qualities and virtues. He seeks to determine the nature oi 
^hese qualities and to define them: goodness, justice, temper- 
ance, courage, and so on. But he never ventures a definition 
of man. How is this seeming deficiency to be accounted for? 
Did Socrates deliberately adopt a roundabout approach-one 
that allowed him only to scratch the surface of his problem 


■3, Plato, Phaedrus 130A (Jowett bans.). 


without ever penetrating into its depth and its real cote? But 
here, more than anywhere else, we should suspect Socratic 
irony. It is precisely the negative answer of Socrates which 
throws new and unexpected light on the question, and which 
gives us the positive insight into the Socratic conception of 
man. We cannot discover the nature of man in the same way 
that we can detect the nature of "physical things. Physical 
things may be described in terms of their objcqtiye properties, 
but man may be described and defined only in terms of his 
consciousness. This fact poses an entirely new problem which* 
cannot be solved by our usual modes of investigation. Empiri- 
cal observation and logical analysis, in the sense in which 
these terms were used in pre-Socratic philosophy, here proved 
inefficient and inadequate. For it is only in our immediate^., 
intercourse with human beings that we have insight into the 
"character of man. We must actually confront man, we must 
tdeet him squarely face to face, in order to understand him. it is not a new objective content, but a new activity 
and function of thought which is the distinctive feature of 
the philosophy of Socrates. PMosoghy, which had hitherto 
been conceived as an intellectual' monologue, is transformed 
into a dialogue. Only hy way of dialogical or dialectic thought 
can we approach the knowledge of human nature. Previously 
truth might have been conceived to be a sort of ready-made 
thing which could be grasped by an effort of the individual 
'thinker, and readily transferred and communicated to others. 
But Socrates could no longer subscribe to this view. It is Aft 
! impossible-says Plato in the Kepublic-lo implant truth in 
tile sonl-_of a man as it is to give the power of seeing to a man 
bom blind. Truth is by nature the offspring of dialectic 
thought, It cannot be gained, therefore, except through a con- 
stant cooperation of the subjects in mutual interrogation and 
ifcply. It is not therefore like an empirical object; it must ba 
understood as the outgrowth of a social act. Here we have the 
new, indirect answer to the question “What is man?" Man is 
declared to be that creature who is constantly in search of 
WmselF-a creature who in every moment of his existence 
must examine and scrutinize the conditions of his existence. 
In this scrutiny, in this critical attitude toward human life® 

< 21 



consists thf real value of human life. “A life which is unex- 
ijrained,” says Socrates in his Apology, “is not worth living.” i 
We may ejjitgrnize the thought of Socrates by saying that 
man is defined by him as that being who, when asked a rational 
question, can give a rational answer. Both his knowledge and 
his morality are comprehended in this circle. It is by this 
fundamental faculty, by this faculty of giving a response to 
himself and to others, that man becomes a “responsible” 
being, a moral subject, 

2 This first answer has, in a sense, always remained the 
classical answer. The Socratic problem and the Socratic 
method can never be forgotten or obliterated. Through the 
jpedium of Platonic thought it has left its mark 6 on the whole 
future development of human civilization. There is perhaps 
no surer or shorter way of convincing ourselves of the deep 
unity and perfect continuity of ancient philosophic thought 
than by comparing these first stages in Greek philosophy 
with one of the latest and noblest products of Graeco-Roman 
oalture, the book To Himself written by the Emperor Marcns 
Aurelius Antoninus. At first sight such a comparison may ap- 
pear arbitrary; for Marcus Aurelius was not an original 
thinker, nor did he follow a strictly logical method. He himself 

4. Plato, Apology 37E (Jowett trans.). 

5. In the fallowing pages I shall not attempt to give a survey of the 
historical development of anthropological philosophy. I shall merely 

- sited a few typical stages in order to illustrate the general line of 
thought. The history of the philosophy of man is still a desideratum. 
Whereas the history of metaphysics, of natural philosophy, ethical 
and scientific thought has been studied in all detail, we are here still 
at the beginning. During the last century the importance of this 
problem has been felt more and more vividly, Wilhelm Dilthey has 
concentrated all his efforts upon its solution. Bat Dilthey’s work, 
however rich and suggestive, remained incomplete. One of the pupils' 
or Dilthey, Bernhard Groethuysen, has given an excellent description 
of the general development of anthropological philosophy. But un- 
fortunately even this description stops short of the last and decisive 
step— that of our moden eta. See Bernhard Groethuysen, "‘‘Philo- 
sophische Anthropologie," Hmdbuch it r Philosophie (Munich and 
Berlin, 1931), III, 1-207. See also Groethuysen's article, “Towards 
(Si Anthropological Philosophy,” Philosophy and History, Essays Pre- 
sented to Ernst Cassirer (Oxford, Clarendon Press, 1930), pp. 77-89. 

thanks the gods that when he had set his heart on philosophy 
he did not become a writer ot philosophy or a solver of syl- 
logisms. 0 But Socrates and Marcus Aurelius have in commoft 
the conviction that in order to find the true nature or essence 
of man we must first of all remove from his being all external 
and incidental traits. 

"Call none of those things a man's that do not fall 
to him as a man. They cannot be claimed of a man; the man's 
nature does not guarantee them; they are no consummations 
of that nature. Consequently neither is the end for which maa 
lives placed in these things, nor yet that which is perfective 
of the end, namely the Good, Moreover, if any of these things 
did fall to a man, it would not fall to him to contemn them 
and set his face against them, ... but as it is, the more a no, 
can cut himself free, . . . from these and other such things 
with equanimity, by so much the more is he good.” 7 All that 
which befalls man from without is null and void. His essence , 
does not depend on external circumstances; it depends exclu- 
sively on the value he gives to himself. Riches, rank, social 
distinction, even health or intellectual gifts-all this become 
indifferent (aiiaphown). What matters alone is the tendency, 
the inner attitude of the soul; and this inner principle cannot 
he disturbed. "That which does not make a man himself worse 
than before cannot make his life worse either, nOr injure it 
whether from without or within.” 8 

The requirement of self-questioning appears, therefore, in 
Stoicism, as in the conception of Socrates, as man’s privily 
and his fundamental duty.” But this duty is now understood 
in a bfhader sense; it has not only a moral but also a universal 
and metaphysical background. “Never fail to ask thyself thii 
question and to cross-examine thyself thus; What relation 

6 . Marcus Aurelius Antoninus, Ad se ipsum (eis heauton), Bk. j, 
par. 8. In most of the following passages I quote the English versjm 
of C. R. Haines, The Conununings with Himself of Marcus Aurelius, 
Antoninus (Cambridge, Mass., Harvard University Press, 1916), 
Loeb Classical Library, 

7. Marcus Aurelius, op, rit,, Bk. V, par. 15. 

8. idem, Bk. IV, par. 8. 

9. Idem, Bk. Ill, par. 6. 


. 23 

have I to this part of me which they call the ruling Reason 
^to hegemonikon )?" 10 He who lives in harmony with his own 
self, his demon, lives in harmony with the universe; for both 
the universal order and the personal order are nothing but 
different expressions and manifestations of a common under- 
lying principle. Man proves his inherent power of criticism, of 
judgment and discernment, by conceiving that in this corre- 
lation the Self, not the Universe, has the leading part. Ouce 
the Self has won its inner form, this form remains unaltera ble 
tod impert urbable. "A sphere once formed continues round 
and true.” tUTEaF is, so to speak, the last word of Greek 
philosophy-a word that once more contains and explains the 
spirit in which it was originally conceived. This spirit was a 
spirit of judgment, of critical discernment between Being and 
Non-Being, between truth and illusion, between good and evil 
Ljfe i n itsel Lis changing and fluctuating, but tire true val ue 
of life is to be sought in an eternal order that admits of no 
c hang enFinioriiitE^wor!3~of our senses, it is only by the 
power of our judgment that we can grasp this order. Judgment 
fe- the central power in man, the common source of truth and 
morality. For it is the only thing in which man entirely de- 
pends on himself; it is bee, autonomous, self-sufficing. 12 
“Distract not thyself,” says Marcus Aurelius, "be not too 
eager, but be thine own master, and look upon life as a man, 
as a human being, as a citizen, as a mortal creature. . . . 
Things do not touch the sou], for they are external and remain 
^movable, hut our disturbance comes only o£ that judgment 
that we form in ourselves. All these things, which thou seest, 
change immediately, and will no longer be; and constantly 
bear in mind how many of these changes thou hast already 
witnessed. The Universe-mutation, Life-affirmation.” 13 

|o. Idem, Bk. V, par. 11. 

Ji. Idem, Bk. VIII, par. 41. 

12. Cf. idem, Bk. V, pat. 14. Ho logos hi hi hgiki techni dy nameia 
eisin heautais arkoumenal kai tois katli’ heautas eigois. 

13. Ho losmos alhidsis • ho bios hypolSpsis Bk. IV, par, 3. The torn 
"affirmation” or "judgment" seems to me a much more adequate 
expression of tire thought of Marcus Aurelius than "opinion,” which 
I find in all the English versions I have consulted. "Opinion" (tire 


The greatest merit of this Stoic conception of man lies in 
the fact that this conception gives to man both a deep feeling 
of his harmony with nature and of his moral independence of 
nature. In the mind of the Stoic philosopher these assertions 
do not conflict; they are correlated with one another. Man 
finds himself in perfect equipoise with the universe, and he 
knows that this equipoise must not be disturbed by any ex- 
ternal force. Such is the dual character of Stoic "imperturb- 
ability" ( (ttaraxk ). This Stoic theory proved to be one of the 
strongest formative powers of ancient culture. But it foun& 
itself suddenly in the presence of a new, and hitherto un- 
known, force. The conflict with this new force shook the 
classical ideal of man to its very foundations. The Stoic and 
the Christian theories of man are not necessarily hostile ts> 
one another. In the history of ideas they work in conjunction, 
and we often find them in close connection in one and the 
same individual thinker. Nevertheless, there always remains 
one point on which the antagonism between the Christian 
and tire Stoic ideals proves irreconcilable. The asserted ab- 
solute independence of man, which in the Stoic theory 
regarded as man's fundamental virtue, is turned in the Chris- 
tian theory into his fundamental vice and enor. As long as 
man perseveres in this error there is no possible road to salva- 
tion. The struggle between these two conflicting views has 
lasted for many centuries, and at the beginning of the mod- 
em era-at the time of the Renaissance and m the seventeenth, 
century-we still ted its full strenth, 14 

Here we can grasp one of the most characteristic features ot 
anthropological philosophy. This philosophy is not, like other 
branches ot philosophical investigation, a slow and continuous 
development of general ideas. Even in the history of logic, 
metaphysics, and natural philosophy we find the sharpest op- 
positions. This history may be described in Hegelian tends 

Platonic doia ) contains an element of change and uncertainty which 
« not iiifcuded by Marcus Aurelius. As equivalent terms for bypalbp- 
sis we hnd in Marcus Aurelius kris is, trims, diakrisis. Cf. Bk. Ill, par, 
a; VI, par, ;a; VIII, pars, 28, 47. 

14. For a detailed account see Cassirer, Descartes (Stockholm, 
1939), pp. 215 ff. * 


as a dialectic process in which each thesis is followed by its 
1 antithesis. Nevertheless there is an inner consistency, a clear 
logical order, connecting the different stages of this dialectic 
process. Anthropological philosophy, on the other hand, ex- 
hibits a quite different character. If we wish to grasp its real 
meaning and import, we must choose not the epic manner of 
description but the dramatic. For we arc confronted, not with 
a peaceful development of concepts or theories, hut with a 
clash between conflicting spiritual powers, The history of an- 
thropological philosophy is fraught with the deepest human 
passions and emotions. It is not concerned with a single theo- 
retical problem, however general its scope; here the whole 
destiny of man is at stake and clamoring for an ultimate de- 

This character of the problem has foitnd its clearest expres- 
sion in the work of Augustine. Augustine stands at the frontier 
of two ages. Living in the fourth century of the Christian era, 
he has grown up in the tradition of Greek philosophy, and it 
is especially the system of Neo-Platonism which has left its 
eftark on his whole philosophy. But, on the other hand, he is 
the pioneer of medieval thought; he is the founder of medieval 
philosophy and of Christian dogmatics. In his Confessions we 
can follow every step of his way from Greek philosophy to 
Christian revelation. According to Augustine all philosophy 
prior to the appearance of Christ was liable to one fundamen- 
tal error, and was infected with one and the same heresy. 
"'She power of reason was extolled as the highest power of man. 
But what man could never know until he was enlightened 
with a special divine revelation is that reason itself ia<one of 
the most questionable and ambiguous things in the world. 
Reason cannot show us the way to clarity, to truth and wis- 
dom. For it is itself obscure in its meaning, and its origin is 
^rapped in mystery-in a mystery soluble only by Christian 
revelation. Reason for Augustine does not have a simple and 
unique but rather a double and divided nature. Man was 
created in the image of God; and in his original state, in 
which he went out from the hands of God, he was equal to 
his archetype. But all this has been lost through the fall of 
‘Sdam. From that time on all the original power of reason has 

26 r 

been obscured. And reason alone, when left to itself and its 
own faculties, never can find the way back. It cannot recon- 
struct itself; it cannot, by its own efforts, return to its former 
pure essence. If such a reformation is ever possible, it is only 
by supernatural aid, by the power of divine grace. Such is the 
new anthropology, as it is understood by Augustine, and main- 
tained in all the great systems of medieval thought. Even 
Thomas Aquinas, the disciple of Aristotle, who goes back to 
the sources of Greek philosophy, does not venture to deviate 
from this fundamental dogma. He concedes to human reason- 
a much higher power than Augustine did; but he is convinced 
that reason cannot make the right use of these poweis unless 
it is guided and illuminated by the grace of God. Here we 
have come to a complete reversal of all the values upheld by,, 
Greek philosophy. What once seemed to be the highest privi- 
lege of man proves to be his peril and his temptation; what 
appeared as his pride becomes his deepest humiliation. The 
Stoic precept that man has to obey and revere his inner prin- 
ciple, tire "demon” within himself, is now regarded as 
dangerous idolatry. 

It is not practicable here to describe further the character 
of this new anthropology, to analyze its fundamental motives 
and to follow up its development. But in order to understand 
its purport we may choose a different and shorter way. At the 
beginning of modern times there appeared a thinker who gave ’ 
to this anthropology a new vigor and a new splendor. In the 
work of Pascal it found its last and perhaps most impressjgi'i 
expression. Pascal was prepared for this task as no other writei j 
had basn. He possessed an incomparable gift for elucidating 
the roost obscure questions and condensing and concentrating 
complex and scattered systems of thought. Nothing seems t0| 
be impermeable to the keenness of his thought and the lucid- 
ity of his style. In him are united ah the advantages of moderg 
literature and modem philosophy. But he uses them as wedp- 1 
ons against the modern spirit, the spirit of Descartes and his 
philosophy. At first sight Pascal seems to accept all the pre- 
suppositions of Cartesiamsm and of modern science. There is 
nothing in nature that can resist the effort of scientific reason; 
for tlrere is nothing that can resist geometry. It is a curiout! 


event in the history of ideas that it was one of the greatest 
4 and profoundest geometers who became the belated champion 
of the philosophical anthropology of the Middle Ages. Wien 
sixteen years old, Pascal wrote the treatise on conic sections 
that opened a new and a very rich and fertile field of geometri- 
cal thought. But he was not only a great geometer, he was a 
philosopher; and as a philosopher he was not merely absorbed 
in geometrical problems but he wished to understand the true 
use, the extent, and the limits of geometry. He was thus led 
Cto make that fundamental distinction between the “geometri- 
cal spirit" and the “acute or subtle spirit." The geometrical 
spirit excels in all these subjects that are capable of a perfect 
analysis — that may be divided into their first elements . 16 It 
^starts with certain axioms and from them it draws inferences 
the truth of which can he demonstrated by universal logical 
rules. The advantage of this spirit consists in the clarity of its' 
principles and in the necessity of its deductions. But not all 
objects are capable of such treatment. There are things which 
because of their subtlety and their infinite variety defy every 
'attempt at logical analysis. And if there is anything in the 
world that we have to treat in this second way, it is the mind 
of man. IVhat characterizes man is the richness and subtlety! 
the variety and versatility of his nature. Hence mathematics) 
can never become the instrument of a true doctrine of man, of 
a philosophical anthropology. It is ridiculous to speak of man 
' as if he were a geometrical proposition. A moral philosophy in 
Aferms of a system of geometry— an Ethica more geometrico 
iemonstrata-is to the mind of Pascal an absurdity, a phil- 
osophical dream, Traditional logic and metaphysics we them- 
selves in no better position to understand and solve the riddle 
of man. Their first and supreme law is the law of pontradic- 
tion. Rational thought, logical and metaphysical thought can 
^comprehend only those objects which are free from contradic- 
tion, and which have a consistent nature and truth. It is, 

15. For the distinction between i’esprit gdomdtrique and ('esprit dc 
finesse compare Pascal's treatise “De I’esprit geometiique" and Pas- 
cal’s Pensdes, cd. by Charles Loirandre (Paris, 1858), chap, ix, p, 
7,231. In the passages which follow I quote the English translation of 
’ 0 . W. Wight (New York, r86r). 

28 - 

however, just this homogeneity which wc never find in man. 
The philosopher is not permitted to construct an artificial, 
man; he must describe a real one. All the so-called definitions 
of man are nothing but airy speculation so long as they are 
not based upon and confirmed by our experience of man. 
There is no other way to know man than to understand his life 
and conduct. But what we find here defies every attempt at 
inclusion within a single and simple formula. Contradiction 
is the very element of human existence. Man has no “nature" 
-no simple or homogeneous being. He is a strange mixture of- 
being and nonbeing. His place is between these two opposite 

There is, therefore, only one approach to the secret of 
human nature: that of religion. Religion shows us that there is. 
a double man~the man before and after the fall, Man was des- 
tined for the highest goal, but he forfeited his position. By the 
fall he lost his power, and his reason and will were perverted. 
The classical maxim, “Know thyself,” when understood in its 
philosophic sense, in the sense of Socrates, Epictetus, or 
Marcus Aurelius, is therefore not only ineffectual, it is misd 
leading and erroneous. Man cannot confide in himself and 
listen to himself. He has to silence himself in order to hear a 
higher and truer voice. “What shall become of you, then, 0 
man! you who search out what is your true condition by your 
natural reason? . . . Know, then, haughty man, what a para- 
dox you are to yourself. Humble yourself, impotent reason; be 
silent, imbecile nature; leam that man infinitely surpassed 
man, and hear from your master your true condition, which 
you are ignorant of. Listen to God.” 18 

What is given here is not meant to be a theoretical solution 
of the problem of man. Religion cannot offer such a solution, 
By its adversaries religion has always been accused of darkness 
and incomprehensibility. But this blame becomes the highest) 
praise as soon as we consider its true aim. Religion cannot be 
dear and rational. What it relates is an obscure and somber 
story: the story of the sin and the fall of man. It reveals a fact 
of which no rational explanation is possible. We cannot ac- 
count for the sin of man; for it is not produced or necessitated 
j6. Fensfc, chap, x, sec. i. 


by any natural cause. Nor can we account for man’s salvation; 

( for this salvation depends on an inscrutable act of divine 
"*grace. It is freely given and freely denied; there is no human 
action and no human merit that can deserve it. Religion, there- 
^ fore, never pretends to clarify the mystery of man. It confirms 
and deepens this mystery. The God of whom it speaks is a 
Deus absconditus, a hidden God. Hence even his image, man, 
cannot be other than mysterious. Man also remains a homo 
absconditus. Religion is no "theory" of God and man and of 
, their mutual relation. The only answer that we receive from 
religion is ffiafit is the will of Godjro conceal himself. ‘Thus, 
God being concealed, every religion thaf does not say that God 
is concealed is not true; and every religion which does not 
^render a reason for this, is not instructive. Ours does all this: 
Vere tu es Deus absconditus. 1 ’’ . . . For nature is such, that 
it everywhere indicates a God lost, both in man and out of ' 
man.” 18 Religion is, therefore, so to speak, a logic of ab- 
surdity; for only thus can it grasp the absurdity, the inner 
contradiction, the chimerical being of man. “Certainly, noth- 
ing strikes us more rudely than this doctrine; and yet, without 
this mystery, the most incomprehensible of all, we are incom- 
prehensible to ourselves. The knot of our condition takes its 
twists and turns in this abyss; so that man is more inconceiva- 
ble without this mystery, than this mystery is inconceivable 
to man." 10 

"t 3 What we learn from Pascal’s example is that at the 
beginniirg of modern times the old problem was still felt in 
its full strength. Even after the appearance of Descartes’ Dis- 
cours do la methode the modern mind was still wrestling with 
the same difficulties, It was divided between two entirely in- 
compatible solutions. But at the same time there begins a sloyv 
^Intellectual development by which the question What is man? 
is transformed and, so to speak, raised to a higher level. The 
important thing here is not so much the discovery of new 

if. Idem, chap, xii, sec. 5, 

^18. Idem, chap, xiii, sec. 3. 

‘19. Idem, chap, x, sec. 1. 


facts as the discovery of a new instrument of thought. Now for 
the first time the scientific spirit, in the modern sense of the 
word, enters the lists. The quest now is for a general theory 
of man based on empirical observations and on general logical 
principles. The first postulate of this new and scientific spirit 
was the removal of all the artificial barriers that had hitherto 
separated the human world from the rest of nature. In order 
to understand the order of human things we must begin with 
a study of the cosmic order. And this cosmic order now ap- 
pears in a wholly new light. The new cosmology, the helio-, 
centric system introduced in the work of Copernicus, is the 
only sound and scientific basis for a new anthropology. 

Neither classical metaphysics nor medieval religion and 
theology were prepared for this task. Both of these bodies of 
doctrine, however different in their methods and aims, are 
grounded in a common principle. They both conceive the 
universe as a hierarchic order in which man occupies the high- 
est place. In Stoic philosophy and in Christian theology man 
was described as the end of the universe. Both doctrines are 
convinced that there is a general providence ruling over thf 
world and the destiny of man. This concept is one of the 
basic presuppositions of Stoic and Christian thought. 20 All 
this is suddenly called into question by the new cosmology. 
Man's claim to being the center of the universe has lost its 
foundation. Man is placed in an infinite space in which his 
being seems to be a single and vanishing point. He is sur- 
rounded by a mute universe, by a world that is silent to his 
religious feelings and to his deepest moral demands. 

It is .understandable, and it was indeed necessary, that the 
first reaction to this new conception of the world could only 
be a negative one- a reaction of dou bt .and fear. Even the 
greatest "thinkers could not free themselves from this feeling. 
“Le silence dternel de ces espaces infinis m’effraye,“ saw 
Pascal. 21 The Copemican system became one of the stronge$ 
instruments of that philosophical agnosticism and scepticism 
Which developed in the sixteenth century. In his criticism of 

20. For the Stoic concept of providence (pronoia) see, for instance, 
Marcus Aurelius, op. cit., Bk. II, par. 3. 
ai. Pascal, op. cit., chap, xxv, sec. 18. 


human reason Montaigne uses all the well-known traditional 
|rguments of the systems of Greek scepticism. But he adds a 
iiew weapon which in his hands proves to be of the greatest 
strength and of paramount importance. Nothing is more apt to 
humiliate us and to break the pride of human reason than 
an unprejudiced view of the physical universe. Let man, he 
says in a famous passage of his Apologia de Raimand Seboni, 
"make me understand by the force of his reason, upon what 
foundations he has built those great advantages he thinks he 
( has over other creatures. Who has made him believe that this 
admirable motion of the celestial arch, the eternal light of 
those luminaries that roll so high over his head, the wondrous 
and fearful motions of that infinite ocean, should be estab- 
lished and continue so many ages for his service and con- 
venience? Can anything be imagined so ridiculous, that this 
miserable and wretched creature, who is not so much as master 
of himself, but subject to the injuries of all things, should 
call himself master and emperor of the world, of which he 
has not power to know the least part, much less to command 
the whole ?" 32 Man is always inclined to regard the small 
circle in which he lives as the center of the world and to make 
his particidar, private life the standard of the universe. But 
he must give up this vain pretense, this petty provincial way 
of thinking and judging. "When the vines of our village are 
nipped with the frost, the parish-priest presently concludes 
„{Jiat the indignation of God is gone out against all the human 
race . . . Who is it that, seeing these civil wars of ours, does 
not cry out, That the machine of the whole world is upsetting, 
and that the day of judgment is at hand! . . . But whoever 
shall represent to his fancy, as in a picture, the great image of 
our mother nature, pourtrayed in her full majesty and lustre; 
|dioever in her face shall read so general and so constant a 
variety, whoever shall observe himself in that figure, and not 
himself but a whole kingdom, no bigger than the least touch 
of a pencil, in comparison of the whole, that man alone is 

22. Montaigne, Essa/s, II, chap. xii. English trans. by William 
Uazlitt, The Works of Michael de Montaigne (2d ed, London, 
1845), p. 205. 

3 2 

able to value things according to their true estimate and 
grandeur ," 23 

Montaigne’s words give us the clue to the whole subsequent? 
development of the modern theory of man. Modem philoso- 
phy and modem science had to accept the challenge contained 
in these words. They had to prove that the new cosmology, 
far from enfeebling or obstructing the power of human reason, 
establishes and confirms this power. Such was the task of the 
combined efforts of the metaphysical systems of the sixteenth 
and seventeenth centuries. These systems go different ways, 
but they are all directed toward one and the same end. They 
strive, so to speak, to turn the apparent curse of the new 
cosmology into a blessing. Giordano Bruno was the first 
thinker to enter upon this path, which in a sense became tli^. 
path of all modern metaphysics. What is characteristic of the 
' philosophy of Giordano Bruno is that here the term "infinity” 
changes its meaning. In Greek classical thought infinity is a 
negative concept. The infinite is the boundless or indeter- 
minate. It has no limit and no form, and it is, therefore, 
inaccessible to human reason, which lives in the realm of fon» 
and can understand nothing but forms. In this sense the finite 
and infinite, peri (a and hapeimn, are declared by Plato in the 
Phikbvs to be the two fundamental principles which are nec- 
essarily opposed to one another. In Bruno’s doctrine infinity 
no longer means a mere negation or limitation. On the con- 
trary, it means the immeasurable and inexhaustible abun- 
dance of reality and the unrestricted power of the humas 
intellect. It is in this sense that Bruno understands and inter- 
prets the Copeinican doctrine. This doctrine, according to 
Bruno, was the first and decisive step toward man’s self-libera- 
tion. Man no longer lives in the world as a prisoner enclosed 
within tKe narrow walls of a finite physical universe. He can 
traverse the air and break through all the imaginary boundaries 
of the celestial spheres which have been erected by a fals'fe 
metaphysics and cosmology . 24 The infinite universe sets no 
limits to human reason; on the Contrary, it is the great in- 

13. Idem, I, chap. xxv. English trans., pp. 65 f. 

la. For further details see Cassirer, Judiyidiium rmd Kosmos in der, 

Philosophic der Renaissance (Leipzig, 1937), pp. 197 ft. 


, 33 

centive of human reason. The human intellect becomes aware 
of its own infinity through measuring its powers by the in- 
finite universe. 

All this is expressed in the work of Bruno in a poetical, not 
in a scientific language. The new world of modem science, the 
mathematical theory of nature, was still unknown to Bruno. 
He could not, therefore, pursue his way to its logical con- 
clusion. It took the combined efforts of all the metaphysicians 
and scientists of the seventeenth century to overcome the in- 
tellectual crisis brought about by the discovery of the Coper- 
nican system. Every great thinker-Galileo, Descartes, Leibniz, 
Spinoza-has his special share in the solution of this problem. 
Galileo asserts that in the field of mathematics man teaches 
the climax of all possible knowlcdge-a knowledge which is 
not inferior to that of the divine intellect. Of course the divine 
intellect knows and conceives an infinitely greater number of ’ 
mathematical truths than we do, but with regard to objective 
certainty the few verities known by the human mind are 
known as perfectly by man as they are by God . 26 Descartes 
begins with his universal doubt which seems to enclose man 
within the limits of his own consciousness. There seems to be 
no way out of this magic circle-no approach to reality. But 
even here the idea of the infinite turns out to be the only 
instrument for Hie overthrow of universal doubt. By means of 
this concept alone we can demonstrate the reality of God and, 
in an indirect way, the reality of the material world. Leibniz 
-■-fifimbines this metaphysical proof with a new scientific proof. 
He discovers a new instrument of mathematical thought-the 
infinitesimal calculus. By the rules of this calculus the physi- 
cal universe becomes intelligible; the laws of nature are seen 
to be nothing but special cases of the general laws of reason. 
It is Spinoza who ventures to make the last and decisive step 
jn this mathematical theory of the world and of the human 
mind. Spinoza constructs a new ethics, a theory of the passions 
and affections, a mathematical theory of the moral world. By 
this theory alone, he is convinced, can we attain our epd; the 
goal of a “philosophy of man," of an anthropological philoso- 

*5. Galileo, Diaiogo del due massimi sistemi del nioudo, I (Edizione 
nazionale), VII, 129. 

34 , 

phy, which is free from the errors and prejudices of a merely 
anthropocentric system. This is the topic, the general theme, 
which in its various forms permeates all the great metaphysics/ 
systems of the seventeenth century, It is the rationalistic 
solution of the problem of man. Mathematical reason is the 
bond between man and the universe; it permits us to pass 
freely from the one to the other. Mathematical reason is the 
key to a true understanding of the cosmic and the moral order. 

4 In 1754 Denis Diderot published a series of aphorisms^ 
entitled Pensies m Tinterpritation de la nature. In this essay 
he declared that the superiority of mathematics in tire realm 
of science is na longer uncontestcd. Mathematics, he asserted, 
has reached such a high degree of perfection that no further 
progress is possible; henceforth mathematics will remain sta- 
• tionary. “Nous touchons au moment d’une grande revolution 
dans les sciences. Au penchant que les esprits me paroissent 
avoir h la morale, aux belles lettres, h l’histoire de la nature et 
& la physique exp&imentale j’oserois presque assurer qu'avant 
qu’il soit cent ans on ne comptera pas trois giands gdom£tre& 
en Europe. Cette science s’arrdtera tout court oh l’auront 
laissd les Bernoulli, les Euler, les Maupertuis et les d’Alem- 
bert. Ils auront posds les colonnes d’Hercule, on n’ira point 
au debt.” 20 

Diderot is one of the great representatives of the philosophy 
of the Enlightenment. As the editor of the Encyclopedia he 
stands at the very center of all the great intellectual movgj 
ments of his time. No one had a clearer perspective of the 
general^levelopment of scientific thought; no one had a keener 
feeling for all the tendencies of the eighteenth century. It is all 
the more characteristic and remarkable of Diderot that, repre- 
senting all the ideals of the Enlightenment, he began to doubt 
the absolute right of these ideals. He expects the rise of a new 
form of science-a science of a more concrete character, baser? 
rather on the observation of facts than on the assumption of 
general„principles. According to Diderot, we have highly over- 
rated our logical and rational methods. We know haw to 

26. Diderot, Pens&s sur 1 ’interprdtation de la nature, sec. 4: cf. secs, 
17, 21. 



compare, to organize, and systematize the known facts; but 
we have not cultivated those methods by which alone it would 
be possible to discover new facts. We are under the delusion 
that the man who does not know how to count his fortune is 
in no better position than the man who has no fortune at all. 
But the time is near when we shall overcome this prejudice, 
and then we shall have reached a new and culminating point 
in the history of natural science. 

Has Diderot’s prophecy been fulSUed? Did the develop- 
ment of scientific ideas in the nineteenth century confirm his 
view? On one point, to be sure, his error is obvious. His ex- 
pectation that mathematical thought would come to a stand- 
still, that the great mathematicians of the eighteenth century 
had reached the Pillars of Hercules, proved to be entirely un- 
true. To that eighteenth-century galaxy we must now add 
the names of Gauss, of Riemann, of Weierstrass, of PoincaM. 
Everywhere in the science of the nineteenth century we meet 
with the triumphal march of new mathematical ideas and cop. 
cepts. Nevertheless, Diderot’s prediction contained an do- 
ment of truth. For the innovation of the intellectual structure 
of the nineteenth century lies in the place that mathematical 
thought occupies in the scientific hierarchy. A new force be- 
gins to appear. Biological thought takes precedence over 
mathematical thought. In the first half of the nineteenth cep- 
tury there are still some metaphysicians, such as Ilerbart, Or 
some psychologists, such as G. Th. Fecbner, who cherish the 
hope of founding a mathematical psychology, But these proj- 
ects rapidly disappear after the publication of Darwin’s work 
On the Origin of Species. Henceforth the true character of 
anthropological philosophy appears to be fixed once and for 
all. After innumerable fruitless attempts the philosophy of 
man stands at last on firm ground. We no longer need indulge 
in airy speculations, for we are not in search of a general defini- 
tion of the nature or essence of man. Our problem is simply 
to collect the empirical evidence which the general theory of 
evolution has put at our disposal in a rich and abundant meas- 

Such was the conviction shared by the scientists and 
philosophers of the nineteenth century. But what became 


more important for the general history of ideas and for the 
development of philosophical thought was not the empirical 
facts of evolution but the theoretical interpretation of these 
facts. This interpretation was not determined, in an unam- 
biguous sense, hy the empirical evidence itself, but rather by 
certain fundamental principles which had a definite metaphys- 
ical character. Though rarely acknowledged, this metaphysical 
cast of evolutionary thinking was a latent motivating force. 
The theory of evolution in a general philosophical sense was 
by no means a recent achievement. It had received its classical 
expression in Aristotle's psychology and in his general view of 
organic life. The characteristic and fundamental distinction 
between the Aristotelean and the modern version of evolution 
consisted in the fact that Aristotle gave a formal interpretation 
whereas the moderns attempted a material interpretation. 
Aristotle was convinced that in order to understand the general 
plan of nature, the origins of life, the lower forms must be 
interpreted in the light of the higher forms. In his metaphys- 
ics, in his definition of the soul as "the first actualization of 
a natural body potentially having life,” organic life is 
conceived and interpreted in terms of human life. The teleo- 
logical character of human life is projected upon the whole 
realm of natural phenomena. In modem theory this order is 
reversed. Aristotle’s final causes are characterized as a mere 
“asylum ignorantiae." One of the principal aims of Darwin’s 
work was to free modern thought from this illusion of final 
causes. We must seek to understand the structure of organic 
nature by material causes alone, or we cannot understand it 
at all. But material causes are in Aristotle’s terminology 
“accidental” causes. Aristotle had emphatically asserted the 
impossibility of understanding the phenomenon of life by such 
accidental causes. Modem theory takes up this challenge. 
Modern thinkers have held that, after the innumerable fruit- 
less attempts of former times, they have definitely succeeded 
in accounting for organic life as a mere product of chance. 
The accidental changes that take place in the life of every 
organism are sufficient to explain the gradual transformation 
that leads us from the simplest forms of life in a protozoon 
to the highest and most complicated forms. We find one of 



the most striking expressions of this view in Darwin himself, 
who is usually so very reticent with regard to his philosophical 
conceptions. “Not only the various domestic races,” observes 
Darwin at the end of his book, The Variation of Animals and 
Plants under Domestication, ‘but the most distinct genera 
and orders within the same great class-for instance, mammals, 
birds, reptiles, and fishes-are all the descendants of one com- 
mon progenitor, and we must admit that the whole vast 
amount of difference between these forms has primarily arisen 
from simple variability. To consider the subject under this 
point of view is enough to strike one dumb with amazement. 
But our amazement ought to be lessened when we reflect that 
beings almost infinite in number, during an almost infinite 
lapse of time, have often had their whole organization ren- 
dered in some degree plastic, and that each slight modification 
of structure which was in any way beneficial under excessively 
complex conditions of life has been preserved, whilst each 
which was in any way injurious has been rigorously destroyed. 
And tire long-continued accumulation of beneficial variations 
will infallibly have led to structures as diversified, as beauti- 
fully adapted for various purposes and as excellently co-or- 
dinated as we see in the plants and animals around us. Hence 
I have spoken of selection as the paramount power, whether 
applied by man to the formation of domestic breeds, or by 
nature to the production of species ... If an architect were 
to rear a noble and commodious edifice, without the use of cut 
stone, by selecting from the fragments at the base of a preci- 
pice wedge-formed stones for his arches, elongated stones for 
his lintels, and flat stones for his roof, we should admire his 
skill and regard him as the paramount power. Now, the frag- 
ments of stone, thought indispensable to the architect, bear to 
the edifice built by him the same relation which tfie fluctuat- 
ing variations of organic beings bear to the varied and 
admirable structures ultimately acquired by their modified 
descendents.” 27 

But still another, and perhaps the most important, step 
had to be taken before a real anthropological philosophy could 

27. Darwin, The Variation of Animals and Plants under Domestica- 
tion (New York, D. Appleton & Co., 1897), II, chap, xxviii, 4:5 f, 

3 » 

develop. The theory of evolution had destroyed the arbitrary 
limits between the different forms of organic life. There are 
no separate species; there is just one continuous and uninter- ' 
rupted stream of life. But can we apply the same principle 
to human life and human culture ? Is the cultural world, like 
the organic world, made up of accidental changes?— Does it 
not possess a definite and undeniable teleological structure? 
Herewith a new problem presented itself to all philosophers 
whose starting point was the general theory of evolution. They 
had to prove that the cultuial world, the world of human 
civilization, is reducible to a few general causes which are 
the same for the physical as for the so-called spiritual phenom- 
ena. Such was the new type of philosophy of culture intro- 
duced by Hippolyte Taine in his Philosophy of Art and in his 
History of English Literature. “Here as elsewhere," said 
Taine, "we have but a mechanical problem; the total effect is 
a result, depending entirely on magnitude and direction of 
the producing causes . . . Though the means of notation are 
not the same in the moral and physical sciences, yet as in both 
the matter is the same, equally made up of forces, magnitudes, ■ 
and directions, we may say that in both the final result is 
produced after the same method,'’ 28 It is the same iron ring 
of necessity that encloses both our physical and our cultural 
life. In his feelings, his inclinations, his ideas, his thoughts, 
and in his production of works of art, man never breaks Out 
of this magic circle. We may consider man as an animal of 
superior species which produces philosophies and poems iin 
tire same way as silkworms produce their cocoons or bees build 
their cellfc. In the preface to his great work, Las arigines de h 
France contemporaine, Taine states that he is going to study 
the transformation of France as a result of the French Revolu- 
tion as he would the "metamorphosis of an insect." 

But here another question arises. Can we he content with 
counting up in a merely empirical manner the different im- 
pulses that wc find in human nature? For a really scientific 
insight tjrese impulses would have to be classified and sys- 
tematized. Obviously, not all of them are on the same level. 

28. Taine, Histone dc la literature anglaise, Intro, English trans. by 
H. van Latm (New York, Holt & Co., 1872), I, 12 fi, 



We must suppose them to have a definite structute-and one 
of the first and most important tasks of our psychology and 
1 theory of culture is to discover this structure. In the com- 
plicated wheelwork of human life we must find the hidden 
driving force which sets the whole mechanism of our thought 
and will in motion. The principal aim of all these theories 
was to prove the unity and homogeneity of human nature. 
But if we examine the explanations which these theories were 
designed to give, the unity of human nature appears extremely 
doubtful. Every philosopher believes he has found the main- 
spring and master-faculty— I’idee maitmse, as it was called 
by Taine. But as to the character of this master-faculty all the 
explanations differ widely from, and contradict, one another. 

, Each individual thinker gives us his own picture of human 
nature. All these philosophers are determined empiricists: 
they would show us the facts and nothing but the facts. But 
their interpretation of the empirical evidence contains from 
the very outset an arbitrary assumption-and this arbitrariness 
becomes more and more obvious as the theory proceeds and 
- takes on a more elaborate and sophisticated aspect. Nietzsche 
proclaims the will to power, Freud signalizes the sexual in- 
stinct, Marx enthrones the economic instinct. Each theory be- 
comes a Procrustean bed on which the empirical facts are 
stretched to fit a preconceived pattern. 

Owing to this development our modern theory of man lost 
its intellectual center. We acquired instead a complete 
-(anarchy of thought. Even in the former times to be sure there 
was a great discrepancy of opinions and theories relating to 
this problem. But there remained at least a general orienta- 
tion, a frame of reference, to which all individual differences 
might be referred. Metaphysics, theology, mathematics, and 
biology successively assumed the guidance for thought on the 
problem of man and determined the line of investigation. The 
real crisis of this problem manifested itself when such a central 
power capable of directing all individual eflorts ceased to exist. 
The paramount importance of the problem was stjll felt in 
all the different branches of knowledge and inquiry. But an 
established authority to which one might appeal do longer 
existed. Theologians, scientists, politicians, sociologists, bi- 

4 ° 

ologists, psychologists, ethnologists, economists all approached 
the problem from their own viewpoints. To combine or unify 
all these particular aspects and perspectives was impossible. 
And even within the special fields there was no generally ac- 
cepted scientific principle. The personal factor became more 
and more prevalent, and the temperament of the individual 
writer tended to play a decisive role. Trahit sud quemque 
voluptas: every author seems in the last count to be led by 
his own conception and evaluation of human life. 

That this antagonism of ideas is not merely a grave theoreti- 
cal problem but an imminent threat to the whole extent of 
our ethical and cultural life admits of no doubt. In recent 
philosophical thought Max Scheler was one of the first to be- 
come aware of and to signalize this danger. "In no other period 
of human knowledge,” declares Scheler, “has man ever be- 
come more problematic to himself than in our own days. We 
have a scientific, a philosophical, and a theological anthro- 
pology that know nothing of each other. Therefore we no 
longer possess any clear and consistent idea of man. The ever- 
growing multiplicity of tire particular sciences that are en- 
gaged in the study of men has much more confused and 
obscured than elucidated our concept of man.” 29 

Such is the strange situation in which modem philosophy 
finds itself. No former age was ever in such a favorable po- 
sition with regard to the sources of our knowledge of human 
nature, Psychology, ethnology, anthropology, and history have 
amassed an astoundingly lich and constantly increasing bodyj 
of facts. Our technical instruments for observation and ex- 
perimentation have been immensely improved, and oni analy- 
ses have become sharper and more penetrating. We appear, 
nevertheless, not yet to have fotrnd a method for the mastery 
and organization of this material. When compared with our 
own abundance the past may seem very poor, But our wealth 
of facts is not necessarily a wealth of thoughts. Unless we 
succeed in finding a clue of Ariadne to lead us out of this 
labyrinth, we can have no real insight into the general' char- 
acter of human culture; we shall remain lost in a mass of dis- 

39. Max Scheler, Die Stdlung des Mensdien im Kosmos (Darm- 
stadt, Reichl, 1938), pp, 13 f. 


4 1 

connected and disintegrated data which seem to lack all 
^ conceptual unity. 

2 A Clue to the Nature of Man: the Symbol 

The biologist Johannes von Uexkiill has written a hook 
in which he undertakes a critical revision of the prin- 
ciples of biology. Biology, according to Uexkiill, is a natural 
science which has to be developed by the usual empirical 
methods— the methods of observation and experimentation. 
Biological thought, on the other hand, does not belong to the 
same type as physical or chemical thought. Uexkiill is a reso- 
lute champion of vitalism; he is a defender of the principle 
of the autonomy of life. Life is an ultimate and self-dependent 
reality. It cannot be described or explained in terms of physics 
or chemistry. From this point of view Uexkiill evolves a new 
general scheme of biological research. As a philosopher he is an 
idealist or phenomenalist. But his phenomenalism is not based 
upon metaphysical or epistemological considerations; it is 
founded rather on empirical principles. As he points out, it 
would be a very naive sort of dogmatism to assume that there 
exists an absolute reality of things which is the same for all 
living beings. Jfealitv is nnt a unique and h omogeneous thing ; 
it i s immensely diversified, having a s many different schemes 
and patte rns. a s there are diffe rent organisms. Every organism 
"is, so to speak, a monadic beinft. It ha s aworidjiLiilown 
jrecaq sf. it has gn exp erience of its own . TEFphenomena that 
we find in the life of a certain biological species are Trot trans- 
ferable to any other species. The experiences— and therefore 
the realities— of two different organisms are incommensurable 
with one another. In the world of a fly, says Uexkiill, we find 
only "fly things"; in the world of a sea urchin we find only 
“sea urchin things." 

From this general presupposition Uexkiill develops a very 
ingenious and original scheme of the biological world, ‘Wishing 
to avoid all psychological interpretations, he follows an en- 
tirely objective or behavioristic method. The only clue to 
animal life, he maintains, is given us in the facts of com- 

4 2 

parative anatomy. If we know the anatomical structure of an 
animal species, we possess all the necessary data for recon- 
structing its special mode of experience. A careful study of 
the structure of the animal body, of tire number, the quality, 
and the distribution of the various sense organs, and the con- 
ditions of the nervous system, gives us a perfect image of the 
inner and outer world of the organism. Uexkiill began his 
investigations with a study of tire lowest organisms; he ex- 
tended them gradually to all the forms of organic life. In a 
certain sense he refuses to speak of lower or higher forms of ,■ 
life. Life is perfect everywhere; it is the same in the smallest 
as in the largest circle. Every organism, even the lowest, is 
not only in a vague sense adapted to ( angepasst ) but entirely 
fitted into (eingepasst) its environment. According to its ana- 
tomical structure it possesses a certain Merknetz and a certain 
'Wirknetz-a recepto r system and an effecto r system, Without 
the cooperation and equilibrium of these two systems the 
organism could not survive. Tir e recept or system by. which a 
biological s pecies receives ^ ojjjayard stlmui PamT th e effector 
system by which it reacts to them are in all cases closely. inter- ' 
TOvem'Theflrre’ links in one and the same chain which is 
described by Uexkiill as the functional circle ( Funktionskren ) 
of the animal. 1 

1 cannot enter here upon a discussion of UexkiiH's biological 
principles. I have merely referred to his concepts and termi- 
nology in order to pose a general question. Is it possible to 
make use of the scheme proposed by Uexkiill for a descriptions' 
and characterization of the human world? Obviously this 
world farms no exception to those biological rules which 
govern the life of all the other organisms, Yet in the human 
world we find a new characteristic which appears to be the 
distinctive mark of human life. The functional circle of man 
is not only quantitively enlarged; it lias also undergone a quali- 
tative change. Man lias, as it were, discovered a new method 
of adapting himself to his environment. Between the receptor 
system and the effector system, which are to be found -in all 

r. See Johannes von Uexkiill, Theoretische Biologie (2d ed. Berlin, 
1928); Umwelt und Jnnenwelt der Tieie (1909; 2d ed, Berlin, 




anima! species, we find in man a third link which we may 
describe as the symbolic system. This new acquisition trans- 
forms the whole of human life. As compared with the other 
animals man lives not merely in a broader reality; he lives, 
so to speak, in a new dimension of reality. There is an un- 
mistakable difference between organic reactions and human 
responses. In the first case a direct and immediate answer is 
given to an outward stimulus; in the second case the answer 
is delayed. It is interrupted and retarded by a slow and com- 
plicated process of thought. At first sight such a delay may 
appear to be a very questionable gain. Many philosophers 
have warned man against this pretended progress. “L’homme 
qui mddite,” says Rousseau, "est un animal ddpravd”: it is 
not an improvement but a deterioration of human nature to 
exceed the boundaries of organic life. 

Yet there is no remedy against this reversal of the natural 
order. Man cannot escape from his own achievement. He can- 
not but adopt the conditions of his own life. No longer in a 
merely physical universe, man lives in a symbolic universe. 
Language, myth, art, and religion are parts of this universe. 
'They are the varied threads which weave the symbolic net, the 
tanked web of human experience. All human progress in 
thought and experience refines upon and strengthens this net. 
No longer can man confront reality immediately; he cannot 
see it, as it were, face to face. Physical reality seems to recede 
in proportion as man’s symbolic activity advances. Instead of 
dealing with the things themselves man is in a sense constantly 
conversing with himself. He has so env eloped himsq l f in 
linguistic f orms, in artistic ima~gesj~ln my tmcaTfytnbols or 
r eHiiourrites that he cannot - see "or E now anything except 
b y the interp osition of this ar tificial medium . His situation is 
the same in Hie theorebcaiTs in the practical sphere. Even 

here man does not live in a world of hard facts, or according to, 

his immediate nee3TiindHgiires. He lives rather in the mid^t 
of imagi nary cmoHan s,"m~Eopes and fears, in illusions jjxL 
drsilmsionsT in KTs fantasies amfUreains. “\TOaT3Sturbs and 
alarms man," said tSpictetusT^e noF the tilings, but his 
opinions and fancies about the things." 

From the point of view at which we have just arrived we 


may correct and enlarge the classical definition of man. In 
spite of all the efforts of modem irrationalism this definition 
of man as an animal, rationale has not lost its force. Rationality 
is indeed an inherent feature of all human activities. My- 
thology itself is not simply a crude mass of superstitions or 
gross delusions. It is not merely chaotic, for it possesses a 
systematic or conceptual form. 2 But, on the other hand, it 
would be impossible to characterize the structure of myth as 
rational. Language has often been identified with reason, or 
with the very source of reason. But it is easy to see that this 
definition fails to cover the whole field. It is a pars pro toto; 
it offers us a part for the whole. For side by side with con- 
ceptual language there is an emotional language; side by side 
with logical or scientific language there is a language of poetic 
imagination. Primarily language does not express thoughts or 
Ideas, but feelings and affections. And even a religion "within 
the limits of pure reason” as conceived and worked out by 
Kant is no more than a mere abstraction. It conveys only tire 
ideal shape, only the shadow, of what a genuine and concrete 
religious life is. The great thinkers who have defined man as 
an animal rationale were not empiricists, nor did they ever 
intend to give an empirical account of human nature. By 
this definition they were expressing rather a fundamental 
moral imperative. Reason is a very inadequate term with 
which to comprehend the forms of man’s cultural life in all 
their richness and variety. But all these forms are symbolic 
forms. Hence, instead of defining man as an animal rationale,, 
we should define him as an animal symbolicum. By so doing 
we can designate his specific difference, and we can understand 
the new way open to man-theway to civilization. 

3 From Animal Reactions to Human Responses 

By our definition of man as an animal symbaliatm we have 
arrived at our first point of departure for further investiga- 
tions. But it now becomes imperative that we develop 
2 . See Cassirer, Die BegriSsform im mythischen Denken (Leipzig, 



this definition somewhat in order to give it greater precision. 
.,That symbolic thought and symbolic behavior are among the 
most characteristic features of human life, and that the whole 
progress of human culture is based on these conditions, is 
undeniable. But are we entitled to consider them as the 
special endowment of man to the exclusion of all other organic 
beings? Is not symbolism a principle which we may trace back 
to a much deeper source, and which has a much broader range 
of applicability? If we answer this question in the negative we 
must, as it seems, confess our ignorance concerning many 
fundamental questions which have perennially occupied the 
center of attention in the philosophy of human culture. The 
question of the origin of language, of art, of religion becomes 
• unanswerable, and we are left with human culture as a given 
fact which remains in a sense isolated and, therefore, unin- 

It is understandable that scientists have always refused to 
accept such a solution. They have made great efforts to con- 
nect the fact of symbolism with other well-known and more 
‘'elementary facts. The problem has been felt to he of para- 
mount importance, but unfortunately it has very rarely been 
approached with an entirely open mind. From the first it has 
been obscured and confused by other questions which belong 
to a quite different realm of discourse. Instead of giving us 
an unbiased description and analysis of tire phenomena them- 
selves the discussion of this problem has been converted into 
h metaphysical dispute. It has become the bone of contention 
between the different metaphysical systems: between idealism 
and materialism, spiritualism and naturalism. For till these 
systems the question of symbolism has become a crucial prob- 
lem, on which the future shape of science and metaphysics 
has seemed to hinge. 

i With this aspect of the problem we are not concerned here, 
having set for ourselves a much more modest and concrete 
task. We shall attempt to describe the symbolic attitude of 
man in a more accurate manner in order to be able to con- 
tradistinguish it from other modes of symbolic behavior found 
throughout the animal kingdom. That animals do not always 
react to stimuli in a direct way, that they are capable of an 

4 6 

indirect reaction, is evidently beyond question. Tire well- 
known experiments of Pavlov provide us with a rich body of _ 
empirical evidence concerning the so-called representative 
stimuli. In the case of the anthropoid apes a very interesting 
experimental study by Wolfe has shown the effectiveness of 
“token rewards.” The animals learned to respond to tokens 
as substitute for food rewards in the same way in which they 
responded to food itself . 1 According to Wolfe the results of 
varied and protracted training experiments have demonstrated 
that symbolic processes occur in the behavior of anthropoid 
apes. Robert M. Yerkes, who describes these experiments in 
his latest book, draws from them an important general con- 

“That they [symbolic processes] are relatively rare and diffi- 
cult to observe is evident. One may fairly continue to question 
their existence, but I suspect that they presently will be iden- 
tified as antecedents of human symbolic processes. Thus we 
leave this subject at a most exciting stage of development, 
when discoveries of moment seem imminent .” 2 

It would be premature to make any predictions with regard' 
to the future development of this problem. The field must be 
left open for future investigations. The interpretation of the 
experimental facts, on the other hand, always depends on 
certain fundamental concepts which have to be clarified before 
the empirical material can hear its fruit. Modem psychology 
and psychobiology take this fact into account. It seems to me 
highly significant that nowadays it is not the philosophers but-' 
the empirical observers and investigators who appear to be 
taking the leading roles in solving this problem. The latter 
tell us that after all the problem is not merely an empirical 
one but ,to a great degree a logical one. Georg Rdvdsz has 
recently published a series of articles in which he starts off 
with the proposition that the wamtly debated question of so- 
called animal language cannot be solved on the basis of mere 
facts of animal psychology. Everyone who examines the differ- 

1. J. fi. Wolfe, “Effectiveness of Token-rewards for Chimpanzees,” 
Comparative Psychology Monographs, 12, No. ;. 

2. Robert M, Yerkes, Chimpanzees. A Laboratory Colony (New 
Haven, Yale University Press, 1943), p. 189, 


ent psychological theses and theories with an unbiased and 
^ critical mind must come at last to the conclusion that the 
problem cannot be cleared up by simply referring to forms of 
animal communication and to certain animal accomplish- 
ments which are gained by drill and training. All such 
accomplishments admit of the most contradictory interpreta- 
tions. Hence it is necessary, first of all, to find a correct logical 
starting point, one which can lead us to a natural and sound 
interpretation of the empirical facts. This starting point 
. is the definition of speech ( die Begriffsbestimmung der 
Sprache ). 3 But instead of giving a ready-made definition of 
speech, it would be better perhaps to proceed along tentative 
lines. Speech is not a simple and uniform phenomenon. It 
1 consists of different elements which, both biologically and 
systematically, are not on the same level. We must try to find 
the order and interrelationships of the constituent elements;’ 
we must, as it were, distinguish the various geological strata of 
speech, The first and most fundamental stratum is evidently 
the language of the emotions. A great portion of all human 
! utterance still belongs to this stratum. But there is a form of 
speech that shows us quite a different type. Here the word is by 
no means a mere interjection; it is not an involuntary expres- 
sion of feeling, but a part of a sentence which has a definite 
syntactical and logical structure . 1 It is true that even in highly 
developed, in theoretical language the connection with the 
first element is not entirely broken off. Scarcely a sentence can 
"he found-cxcept perhaps the pure formal sentences of math- 
ematics-without a certain affective or emotional tinge . 5 
Analogies and parallels to emotional language may he found 
in abundance in the animal world. As regards chimpanzees 

3. G. Rfv&z, "Die menschlicheu Kommunikationsformm und die 
sogenannte Tiersprache,” Proceedings of flie Netherlands Akademie 

tvaij Wetenschappen, XLIII (1940), Nos. 9, 10; XLIV (1941), 
No. 1. 

4. For the distinction between mere emotive utterances and "the 
normal type of communication of ideas that is speech,' 1 see the in- 
troductory remarks of Edward Sapir, Language (New York, Har- 
court, Brace, 1921). 

' ;. For further details see Charles Bally, he hnpge ef fa vie (Paris, 

+ 8 

Wolfgang Koehler states that they achieve a considerable de- 
gree of expression by means of gesture. Rage, terror, despair, , 
grief, pleading, desire, playfulness, and pleasure are readily 
expressed in this manner. Nevertheless one element, which 
is characteristic of and indispensable to all human language, 
is missing: we find no signs which have an objective reference 
or meaning. “It may he taken as positively proved," says 
Koehler, "that their gamut of phonetics is entirely ‘subjective,’ 
and Can only express emotions, never designate or describe ob- 
jects. But they have so many phonetic elements which are also ' 
common to human languages, that their lack of articulate 
speech cannot be ascribed to secondary (glosso-labial) limita- 
tions. Their gestures too, of face and body like their expression 
in sound, never designate or ‘describe’ objects (Biihler ) 8 
Here we touch upon the crucial point in our whole problem. 
The difference between propositional language and emotional 
language is the real landmark between the human and the 
animal world. All the theories and observations concerning 
animal language are wide of the mark if they fail to recognize 
this fundamental difference . 7 In all the literature of the sub- 
ject there does not seem to be a single conclusive proof of the 
fact that any animal ever made the decisive step from sub- 
jective to objective, from affective to propositional language. 
Koehler insists emphatically that speech is definitely beyond 
the powers of anthropoid apes. He maintains that the lack of 
this invaluable technical aid and the great limitation of those* 

6- Wolfgang Koehler, "Zur Psychologic des Scliimpansen,” Psycho- 
logfsche Fbrechung, I (1921}, 27. Cf. the English ed., The Mental- 
ity of Apes (New York, Harcourt, Brace, 1925), App., p. 317. 

7. An early attempt to make a sharp distinction between proposi- 
tional and emotional language was made in the field of the psycho- 
pathology of language. The English neurologist Jackson introduced 
the term "propositional language” in order to account for some very ; 
interesting pathological phenomena. He found that many patients 
suffering from aphasia had by no means lost the use of speech but 
that they could not employ their words in an objective, propositional 
sense, Jackson’s distinction proved to be very fruitful. It has played 
an important part in the further development of the psychopathology 
of language, For details see Cassirer, Philosophic der symbolischen 
Formeu, III, chap, vi, 237-323. 



very important components of thought, the so-called images, 
constitute the causes which prevent animals from ever achiev- 
ing even the least beginnings of cultural development . 8 The 
same conclusion has been reached by Rdvdsz. Speech, he as- 
serts, is an anthropological concept which accordingly should 
be entirely discarded from the study of animal psychology. If 
we proceed from a clear and precise definition of speech, all 
the other forms of utterances, which we also find in animals, 
are automatically eliminated . 8 Ycrkes, who has studied the 
problem with special interest, speaks in a more positive tone. 
He is convinced that even with respect to language and sym- 
bolism there exists a close relationship between man and the 
anthropoid apes. “This suggests,” he writes, “that we may 
.have happened upon an early phylogenetic stage in the evolu- 
tion of symbolic process. There is abundant evidence that 
various other types of sign process than the symbolic are of 
frequent occurrence and function effectively in the chimpan- 
zee.” 10 Yet all this remains definitely prelinguistic. Even in 
the judgment of Yerkes all these functional expressions are ex- 
ceedingly rudimentary, simple, and of limited usefulness by 
comparison with human cognitive processes . 11 The genetic 
question is not to be confused here with the analytical and 
phenomenological question. The logical analysis of human 
speech always leads us to an clement of prime importance 
which has no parallel in the animal world. The general theory 
of evolution in no sense stands in the way of the acknowledg- 
ment of this fact. Even in the field of the phenomena of or- 
ganic nature we have learned that evolution does not exclude 
a sort of original creation. The fact of sudden mutation and 
of emergent evolution has to be admitted. Modern biology no 
longer speaks of evolution in terms of earlier Darwinism; nor 
does it explain the causes of evolution in the same way. We 
may readily admit that the anthropoid apes, in the develop- 

8. Koehler, The Mentality of Apes, p. 277. 

9, Rfvfsz, op. cit„ XLIH, Ft. II (1940), 33. 

10. Yerkes and Nissen, “Prc-linguistic Sign Behavior in Chim- 
panzee,” Science, LXXX 1 X, 587. 

11, Yerkes, Chimpanzees, p. 189. 

5 ° 

merit of certain symbolic processes, have made a significant 
forward step. But again we must insist that they did not 
reach the threshold of the human world. They entered, as if 
were, a blind alley. 

For the sake of a clear statement of the problem we must 
carefully distinguish between signs and symbols. That we find 
rather complex systems of signs and signals in animal behavior 
seems to be an ascertained fact. We may even say that some 
animals, especially domesticated animals, are extremely sus- 
ceptible to signs. 12 A dog will react to the slightest changes in J 
the behavior of his master; he will even distinguish the ex- 
pressions of a human face or the modulations of a human 
voice. 13 But it is a far cry from these phenomena to an under- 

12. This susceptibility has, for instance, been proved in the famous 
case of ''clever Hans” which a few decades ago created something 
of a sensation among psychobiologists. Clever Hans was a horse 
which appeared to possess an astounding intelligence. He could even 
master rather complicated arithmetical problems, extract cube roots, 
and so on, stamping on the ground as many times as the solution of 
the problem required. A special committee of psychologists and othec*' 
scientists was called on to investigate the case. It soon became clear 
that the animal reacted to certain involuntary movements of its 
owner. When the owner was absent or did not understand the ques- 
tion, the horse could not answer it, 

13. To illustrate this point I should like to mention another very 
revealing example. The psychobiologist. Dr. Pfungst, who had de- 
veloped some new and interesting methods for the study of animal 
behavior, once told me that he had received a letter from a major- 
about a curious problem. The major had a dog which accompanied 
him on his walks, Whenever the master got ready to go out the 
animal Showed signs of great joy and excitement. But one day the 
major decided to try a little experiment. Pretending to go out, he put 
on hi$ hat, took his cane, and made the customary preparations — 
without, however, any intention of going for a walk. To his great 
surprise the dog was not in the least deceived; he remained quietly 
in his comer. After a brief period of observation Dr. Pfungst wa^ 
able to solve the mystery. In the major’s room there was a desk with 
a drawer which contained some valuable and important documents. 
The major had formed the habit of rattling this drawer before leav- 
ing the house in order to make sure that it was safely locked. He 
did not do so the day he did not intend to go out. But for the dog 
this had become a signal, a necessary element of the walk-situation.^ 
Without this signal the dog did not react. 



standing of symbolic and human speech. The famous experi- 
ments of Pavlov prove only that animals can easily be trained 
\o react not merely to direct stimuli but to all sorts of mediate 
or representative stimuli. A bell, for example, may become a 
"sign for dinner ” and an animal may be trained not to touch 
its food when this sign is absent. But from this we learn only 
that the experimenter, in this case, has succeeded in changing 
the food-situation of the animal. He has complicated this situ- 
ation by voluntarily introducing into it a new element. All the 
phenomena which are commonly described as conditioned 
reflexes are not merely very far from but even opposed to the 
essential character of human symbolic thought. Symbols-in 
the proper sense of this term-cannot be reduced to mere 
^signals. Signals and symbols belong to two different universes 
of discourse: a signal is a part of the physical world of being; 
a symbol is a part of the human world of meaning. Signals 
are "operators”; symbols are "designators." 14 Signals, even 
when understood and used as such, have nevertheless a sort 
of physical or substantial being; symbols have only a functional 

Bearing this distinction in mind, we can find an approach 
to one of the most controverted problems. The question of 
the intelligence of animals has always been one of the greatest 
puzzles of anthropological philosophy. Tremendous efforts, 
both of thought and observation, have been expended on an- 
swers to this question. But the ambiguity and vagueness of 
,J fte very term “intelligence” has always stood in the way of a 
clear solution. How can we hope to answer a question whose 
import we do not understand? Metaphysicians and scientists, 
naturalists and theologians have used the word intelligence in 
varying and contradictory senses. Some psychologists and psy- 
chobiologists have flatly refused to speak of the intelligence of 
.^.animals. In all animal behavior they saw only the play of a 
certain automatism. This thesis had behind it the authority 
of Descartes; yet it has been reasserted in modern psychology. 
“The animal,” says E. L. Thorndike in his work on animal 

14. For the distinction between operators and designators see Charles 
, .Morns, “The Foundation of the Theory of Signs," Encyclopedia of 
the Unified Sciences (1938) . 

5 2 

intelligence, “does not think one is like the other, nor does it, 
as is so often said, mistake one for the other. It does not think 
about it at all; it just thinks it ■ The idea that animals^ 
react to a particular and absolutely defined and realized sense- 
impression, and that a similar reaction to a sense-impression 
which varies from the first proves an association by similarity, 
is a myth ." 15 Later and more exact observations led to a 
different conclusion. In the case of the higher animals it be- 
came clear that they were able to solve rather difficult prob- 
lems and that these solutions were not brought about in a 
merely mechanical way, by trial and error. As Koehler points 
out, the most striking difference exists between a mere chance 
solution and a genuine solution, so that the one can easily be 
distinguished from the other. That at least some of the reac- . 
tions of the higher animals are not merely a product of chance 
■but guided by insight appears to be incontestable . 10 If by 
intelligence we understand either adjustment to the immedi- 
ate environment or adaptive modification of environment, we 
must certainly ascribe to animals a comparatively highly devel- 
oped intelligence. It must also be conceded that not all animab 
actions are governed by the presence of an immediate stimulus. 
The animal is capable of all sorts of detours in its reactions. It 
may learn not only to use implements but even to invent 
tools for its purposes. Hence some pyschobiologists do not 
hesitate to speak of a creative or constructive imagination in 
animals. 1 ’ But neither this intelligence nor this imagination 
is of the specifically human type. In short, we may say thatU 
the animal possesses a practical imagination and intelligence 
whereas^man alone has developed a new form: a symbolic 
imagination and intelligence. 

Moreover, in the mental development of the individual 
mind the transition from one form to the other-from a 
merely practical attitude to a symbolic attitude — is evident,,. 
But here this step is the final result of a slow and continuous' 

15- Edward L, Thorndike, Animal Intelligence (New York, Mac- 
millan, ifir), pp. 119 ff. 

16. See Koehler, op. cit,, chap, vii, “ 'Chance’ and imitation.’ " 

17. See R, M. aud A. W. Yerkes, The Great Apes (New Haven, 
Yale University Press, 19J9), pp. 36S ft., 510 S. 



process. By the usual methods of psychological observation it 
is not easy to distinguish the individual stages of this com- 
plicated process. There is, however, another way to obtain full 
insight into the general character and paramount importance 
of this transition. Nature itself has here, so to speak, made an 
experiment capable of throwing unexpected light upon the 
point in question. We have the classical cases of Lama Bridg- 
man and Helen Keller, two blind deaf-mute children, who 
by means of special methods learned to speak. Although both 
, cases are well known and have often been treated in psycho- 
logical literature , 18 I must nevertheless remind the reader of 
them once more because they contain perhaps the best il- 
lustration of the general problem with which we are here 
'concerned. Mrs. Sullivan, the teacher of Helen Keller, has 
recorded the exact date on which the child really began to 
understand the meaning and function of human language. I 
quote her own words: "I must write you a line this morning 
because something very important has happened. Helen has 
taken the second great step in her education. She has learned 
■ihat everything has a name, and that the manual alphabet is 
' the key to everything she wants to know. 

“. . . This morning, while she was washing, she wanted to 
know the name for ‘water.’ When she wants to know the name 
of anything, she points to it and pats my hand. I spelled 
‘w-a-t-e-r’ and thought no more about it until after breakfast. 

. . . [Later on] we went out to the pump house, and I made 
■"■'Helen hold her mug under the spout while I pumped. As the 
cold water gushed forth, filling the mug, I spelled ‘w-a-t-e-r’ in 
Helen’s free hand. The word coming so close upon the sensa- 
tion of cold water rushing over her hand seemed to startle her, 
She dropped the mug and stood as one transfixed. A new light 
came into her face. She spelled ‘water’ several times. Then she 
dropped on the ground and asked for its name and pointed to 
the pump and the trellis and suddenly fuming round she asked 

18. For Laura Bridgman see Maud Howe and Florence Hoy;c Hall, 
Laura Bridgman (Boston, 1903); Mary Swift Lamson, Life and 
Education of Laura Dewey Bridgman (Boston, iSSi ); Wilhelm 
^Jerusalem, Laura Bridgman. Erziehung drier Tevbstamm-BSndea 
(Berlin, 1905). 


for my name. I spelled ‘teacher.’ All the way back to the house 
she was highly excited, and learned the name of every object 
she touched, so that in a few hours she had added thirty new 
words to her vocabulary. The next morning she got up like a 
radiant fairy. She has flitted from object to object, asking the 
name of everything and kissing me for very gladness. 
Everything must have a name now. Wherever we go, she asks ( 
eagerly for the names of things she has not learned at home. 
She is anxious for her friends to spell, and eager to teach the i 
letters to everyone she meets. She drpps the signs and panto- k 
mime she used before, as soon as she has words to supply 
their place, and the acquirement of a new word affords her 
the liveliest pleasure. And we notice that her face grows more 
expressive each day." 18 „ 

The decisive step leading from the use of signs and panto- 
mime to the use of words, that is, of symbols, could scarcely 
be described in a more striking manner. What was the child’s 
real discovery at this moment? Helen Keller had previously 
learned to combine a certain thing or event with a certain 
sign of the manual alphabet. A fixed association had beeify 
established between these things and certain tactile impres- 
sions. But a series of such associations, even if they are re- 
peated and amplified, still does not imply an understanding 
of what human speech is and means. In order to arrive at such 
an understanding the child had to make a new and much more 
significant discovery. It had to understand that everything has 
a name-that the symbolic function is not restricted to par- 
ticular cases but is a principle of universal applicability which 
encompasses the whole field of humao thought. In the case of 
Helen Keller this discovery came as a sudden shock. She was a 
girl seven years of age who, with the exception of defects in 
tlie use’of certain sense organs, was in an excellent state of 
health and possessed of a highly developed mind. By the 
neglect of her education she had been very much retarded? 
Then, suddenly, the crucial development takes place. It works 
like an^ intellectual revolution. The child begins to see the 

19. See Helen Keller, The Story of My Life (New York, Doubleday, 
Page & Co., 1902, 1903), Supplementary Account of Helen Keller's 
Lite and Education, pp, 315 If. 



world in a new light. It has learned the use of words not merely 
as mechanical signs or signals but as an entirely new instru- 
ment of thought. A new horizon is opened up, and henceforth 
the child will roam at will in this incomparably wider and 
freer area. 

The same can be shown in the case of Laura Bridgman, 
though hers is a less spectacular story. Both in mental ability 
and in intellectual development Lama Bridgman was greatly 
inferior to Helen Keller. Her life and education do not contain 
‘ the same dramatic elements we find in Helen Keller. Yet in 
both cases the same typical elements are present. After Laura 
Bridgman had learned the use of the finger-alphabet she, too, 
Suddenly reached the point at which she began to understand 
•■the symbolism of human speech. In this tespect we find a 
surprising parallelism between the two cases. "I shall never 
forget,” writes Miss Drew, one of the first teachers of Laura 
Bridgman, "the first meal taken after she appreciated the use 
of the finger-alphabet. Every article that she touched must 
have a name; and I was obliged to call some one to help me 
*ivait upon the other children, while she kept me busy in spell- 
ing the new words .” 30 

The principle of symbolism, with its universality, validity, 
and general applicability, is the magic word, the Open 
Sesame! giving access to the specifically human world, to the 
world of human culture. Once man is in possession of this 
, magic key further progress is assured. Such progress is evi- 
dently not obstructed oi made impossible by any lack in the 
sense material. The case of Helen Keller, who reached a very 
high degree of mental development and intellectual "culture, 
shows us clearly and irrefutably that a human being in the 
construction of his human world is not dependent upon the 
quality of his sense material. If the theories of sensationalism 
ftvere right, if every idea were nothing but a faint copy of an 
original sense impression, then the condition of a blind, deaf, 
and dumb child would indeed be desperate. For it would be 
deprived of the very sources of human knowledge; it would 

20, See Mary Swift Lamson, Life and Education of Laura Dewey 
^Bridgman, the Deaf, Dumb, and Blind Girl (Boston, Houghton, 
Mifflin Co., 1881), pp. 7 E. 

5 ^ 

be, as it were, an exile from reality. But if we study Helen 
Keller’s autobiography we are at once aware that this 'is un- 
true, and at the same time we understand why it is untrue, 
Human culture derives its specific character and its intellec- 
tual and moral values, not from the material of which it 
consists, but from its fomr, its architectural structure. And 
this form may be expressed in any sense material. Vocal 
language has a very great technical advantage over tactile lan- 
guage; but the technical defects ot the latter do not destroy its 
essential use. The free development of symbolic thought and 
symbolic expression is not obstructed by the use of tactile 
signs in the place of vocal ones. If the child has succeeded in 
grasping the meaning of human language, it does not matter 
in which particular material this meaning is accessible to it. , 
As the case of Helen Keller proves, man can construct his 
’symbolic world out of the poorest and scantiest materials, The 
thing of vital importance is not the individual bricks and 
stones hut their general function as architectural form. In the 
realm of speech it is their general symbolic function which 
vivifies the material signs and “makes them speak." Without 
this vivifying principle the human world would indeed re- 
main deaf and mute. With this principle, even the world of a 
deaf, dumb, and blind child can become incomparably broader 
and richer than the world ot the most highly developed ani- 

Universal applicability, owing to the fact that everything^ 
has a name, is one of the greatest prerogatives of human syrrd' 
bolism.Jlut it is not the only one. There is still another 
characteristic of symbols which accompanies and comple- 
ments this one, and forms its necessary correlate. A symbol is 
not only" universal but extremely variable. I can express the 
Same meaning in various languages; and even within the limits 
of a single language a certain thought or idea may be expressed 
in quite different terms. A sign or signal is related to the 
thing to which it refers in a fixed and unique way. Any 
one concrete and individual sign refers to a certain individual 
thing. In Pavlov's experiments the dogs could easily he trained 
to reach for food only upon being given special signs; they 



would not eat until they heard a particular sound which could 
,be chosen at the discretion of the experimenter. But this bears 
no analogy, as it has often been interpreted, to human sym- 
bolism; on the contrary, it is in opposition to symbolism. A 
genuine human symbol is characterized not by its uniformity 
but by its versatility. It is not rigid or inflexible but mobile. 
It is true that the full awareness ol this mobility seems to be a 
rather late achievement in man’s intellectual and cultural 
development. In primitive mentality this awareness is very 
- seldom attained. Mere the symbol is still regarded as a property 
of the thing like other physical properties. In mythical thought 
the name of a god is an integral part of the nature of the god. 
If I do not call the god by his right name, then the spell or 
-.prayer becomes ineffective. The same holds good for symbolic 
actions. A religious rite, a sacrifice, must always be performed 
in the same invariable way and in the same order if it is to 
have its effect . 21 Children are often greatly confused when 
they first learn that not every name of an object is a “proper 
name,” that the same thing may have quite different names in 
‘different languages. They tend to think that a thing “is" what 
' it is called. But this is only a first step. Every normal child will 
learn very soon that it can use various symbols to express 
the same wish or thought. For this variability and mobility 
there is apparently no parallel in the animal world . 22 Long 
before Laura Bridgman had learned to speak, she had devel- 
>-9ped a very curious mode of expression, a language of her 
own. This language did not consist of articulated sounds but 
only of various noises, which are described as "eiqptianal 
noises.” She was in the habit of uttering these sounds in the 
presence of certain persons. Thus they became entirely in- 
dividualized; every person in her environment was greeted by 
,H special noise. "Whenever she met unexpectedly an ac- 
quaintance,” writes Dr. Lieber, “I found that she repeatedly 
uttered the word for that person before she began to speak. 

21. For further details see Cassirer, Sprsche und Mythos (Leipzig, 

* 22. For this problem see W. M. Uiban, Language and Keality, ft, 
I, iii, 95 S. 

5 “ 

It was the utterance of pleasurable recognition ." 23 But when 
by means of the finger alphabet the child had grasped the r 
meaning of human language the case was altered. Now the 
sound really became a name: and this name was not bound 
to ail individual person but could be changed if the circum- 
stances seemed to require it. One day, for instance, Laura 
Bridgman had a letter from her former teacher, Miss Drew, 
who, in the meantime, by her marriage had become a Mrs. 
Morton, fn this letter she was invited to visit her teacher. This 
gave her great pleasure, but she found fault with Miss Drew 
because she had signed the letter with her old name instead of 
using the name of her husband. She even said that now she 
must find another noise for her teacher, as the one for Drew 
must not be the same as that for Morton . 24 It is dear that- 
the former "noises” have here undergone an important and 
very interesting change in meaning. They are no longer special 
utterances, inseparable from a particular concrete situation. 
They have become abstract names. For the new name in- 
vented by the child did not designate a new individual but 
the same individual in a new relationship. * 

Another important aspect of our general problem now 
emerges-the problem of the dependence of relational thought 
upon symbolic thought. Without a complex system of symbols 
relational thought cannot arise at all, much less reach its full 
development. It would not be correct to say that the mere 
awareness of relations presupposes an intellectual act, an act 
of logical or abstract thought. Such an awareness is necessary ’ 
even in elementary acts of perception. The sensationalist theo- 
ries used to describe perception as a mosaic of simple sense 
data. Thinkers of this persuasion constantly overlooked the 
fact that sensation itself is by no means a mere aggregate or 
bundle of isolated impressions. Modem Gestalt psychology 
has corrected this view. It has shown that the very simples^ 
perceptual processes imply fundamental structural elements, 
certain patterns or configurations, This principle holds both 

15. See Francis Lieber, "A Papa on the Vocal Sounds of Laura 
Bridgman,” Smithsonian Contributions to Knowledge, II, Art. j, 
P- J 7 - 

24. See Mary Swift Lamson, op. cit., p, 84. 



for the human and the animal world. Even in comparatively 
How stages of animal life the presence of these structural ele- 
ments-especially of spatial and optical stractures-has been 
experimentally proved . 26 The mere awareness of relations 
cannot, therefore, he regarded as a specific feature of human 
consciousness. We do find, however, in man a special type of 
relational thought which has no parallel in the animal world. 
In man an ability to isolate relations-to consider them in 
their abstract meaning-has developed. In order to grasp this 
meaning man is no longer dependent upon concrete sense 
data, upon visual, auditory', tactile, kinesthetic data. He con- 
siders these relations "in themselves’’-duto hath' hauto, as 
Plato said. Geometry is the classic example of this turning 
1 point in man’s intellectual life. Even in elementary geometry 
we are not bound to the apprehension of concrete individual 
figures. We are not concerned with physical things or percep- 
tual objects, for we are studying universal spatial relations for 
whose expression we have an adequate symbolism. Without 
the preliminary step of human language such an achievement 
’ would not be possible. In all the tests which have been made 
of the processes of abstraction or generalization in animals, 
this point has become evident, Koehler succeeded in showing 
the ability of chimpanzees to respond to the relation between 
two or more objects instead of to a particular object. Con- 
fronted by two food-containing boxes, the chimpanzee by rea- 
. son of previous general training would constantly choose the 
larger— even though the particular object selected might in a 
previous experiment have been rejected as the smaller of the 
pair. Similar capacity to respond to the nearer objtct, the 
brighter, the bluer, rather than to a particular box was dem- 
onstrated. Koehler’s results were confirmed and extended by 
later experiments. It could be shown that the higher animals 
*are capable of what has been called the "isolation of percep- 
tual factors." They have the potentiality for singling out a 
particular perceptual quality of the experimental situation and 

25. See Wolfgang Koehler, ‘‘Optiscbe Untersuchungen am Schim- 
pansen und am Haushuhn; Nachwcis einfachcr Struhturfimktionei) 
’ bcim Schimpansen und bcim Haushuhn,’’ Abbandjungen der Ber- 
liner Akademie der Wissenschaftar (1915, 1918). 


reacting accordingly. In this sense animals are able to abstract 
color from size and shape or shape from size and color. In 
some experiments made by Mrs. Kohts a chimpanzee was 
able to select from a collection of objects varying extremely in 
visual qualities those which had some one quality in common; 
it could, for instance, pick out all objects of a given color and 
place them in a receiving box. These examples seem to prove 
that the higher animals are capable of that process which 
Hume in his theory of knowledge terms making a “distinction 
of raison .'' M But all the experimenters engaged in these in- 
vestigations have also emphasized the rarity, the rudimentari- 
ness, and the imperfection of these processes. Even after they 
have learned to single out a particular quality and to reach 
toward this, animals are liable to all sorts of curious mis- . 
takes. 21 If there are certain traces of a distinctio rationis in 
' the animal world, they are, as it were, nipped in the bud. They 
cannot develop because they do not possess that invaluable 
and indeed indispensable aid of human speech, of a system of 

The first thinker to have clear insight into this problem was- 
Herder. He spoke as a philosopher of humanity who wished to 
pose the question in entirely “human" terms. Rejecting the 
metaphysical or theological thesis of a supernatural or divine 
origin of language. Herder begins with a critical revision of 
the question itself. Speech is not an object, a physical thing 
for which we may seek a natural or a supernatural cause. It 
is a process, a general function of the human mind. Psychos 
logically we cannot describe this process in the terminology 
which was used by all tire psychological schools of tire eight- 
eenth century. According to Herder speech is not an artificial 
creation .of reason, nor is it to be accounted for by a special 
mechanism of associations. In his own attempt to set forth 
the nature of language I-Ierder lays the whole stress upon what 
he calls “reflection." Reflection or reflective thought is the 
ability of man to single out from the whole undiscriminated 

jfi. Hume’s theory of the "distinction of reason” is explained in his 
Treatise of Human Nature, Pt. I, sec. 7 (London, Gieen and Grose, 
18741,1, -532 S. 

37. Examples are given by Yerkes in Chimpanzees, pp. 103 ff. 


mass of the stream of floating sensuous phenomena certain 
dixed elements in order to isolate them and to concentrate 
attention upon them. 

"Man evinces reflection when the power of his soul acts so 
freely that it can segregate from the whale ocean of sensation 
surging through all his senses one wave, as it were; and that it 
can stay this wave, draw attention to it, and be aware of this 
attention. He evinces reflection when from the whole wavering 
dream of images rushing through his senses he can collect 
' himself into a moment of waking, dwell on one image spon- 
taneously, observe it dearly and more quietly, and abstract 
characteristics showing him that this and no other is the object. 
Thus he evinces reflection when he can not only perceive all 
‘■Lhe qualities vividly or clearly but when he can recognize one 
or several of them as distinctive qualities. . . . Now by what 
means did this recognition come about? Through a charac- 
teristic which he had to abstract, and which, as an element of 
consciousness, presented itself dearly. Well then, let us ex- 
claim: Eurekal This initial character of consciousness was the 
‘language of the soul. With this, human language is cre- 
ated." 88 

This has more tire appearance of a poetical portrait than of 
a logical analysis of human speech. Herder’s theory of the ori- 
gin of language remained entirely speculative. It did not 
proceed from a general theory of knowledge, nor from an ob- 
servation of empirical facts. It was based on his ideal of 
humanity and on his profound intuition of the character and 
development of human culture. Nevertheless it contains log- 
ical and psychological elements of the most valuable S)tt. All 
the processes of generalization or abstraction in animals that 
have been investigated and described with accuracy 88 dearly 
lack the distinctive mark enphasized by Herder. Later on, 
■^however. Herder’s view found a rather unexpected clarification 
and confirmation from a quite different quarter. Recent re- 
search in the field of the psychopathology of language has led 

28. Herder, fiber den Ursprung der Sprache (1772), "Werke,” ed. 
Suphan, V, 34 f. 

J 29. See, for instance, the remarks of R. M. Yerkes about “gen- 
eralized responses” in the chimpanzee, op. cit., pp. 130 if. 

6 ? 

to tlie conclusion that the loss, or severe impairment, of speech 
caused by brain injury is never an isolated phenomenon. Such, 
a defect alters the whole character of human behavior. Pa- 
tients suffering from aphasia or other kindred diseases have 
not only tot the use of wds but have undergone correspond- 
ing changes in personality. Such changes are scarcely observa- 
ble in their outward behavior, for here they tend to act in a 
perfectly normal manner. They can perform the tasks of every- 
day life; some of them even develop considerable skill in all 
tests of this sort. But they are at a complete loss as soon as dis- 
solution of the problem requires any specific theoretical or 
reflective activity. They are no longer able to think in general 
concepts or categories. Having lost their grip on universal, 
they stick to the immediate facts, to concrete situations. Such! 
patients are unable to perform any task which can be executed 
only by means of a comprehension of the abstract. 30 All 
this is highly significant, for it shows us to what degree that 
type of thought which Herder called reflective is dependent 
on symbolic thought. Without symbolism the life of man 
would be like that of the prisoners in the cave of Plato’s fa* 
mous simile. Man’s life would be confined within the limits 
of his biological needs and his practical interests; it could 
find no access to the “ideal world’’ which is opened to him 
from different sides by religion, art, philosophy, science. 

4 The Human World of Space and Time 

SpaEb and time are the framework in which all reality 
is concerned. We cannot conceive any real thing except under 
the conditions of space and time. Nothing in tire world, ac- 
cording to Heraclitus, can exceed its measures-and these 

30, A detailed and highly interesting account of these phenomena 
will be found in various publications of K. Goldstein and A. Gelb. 
Goldstein has given a general survey of his theoretical views in Hu- 
man Nature in the Light of Psychopathology, the William James 
Lectutes delivered at Harvard University, 3 937-38 (Cambridge, 
Mass., Harvard University Press, 1940). 1 have discussed the ques- 
tion from a general philosophical point of view in Philosophic d eh 
symbolixhen Formen, III, vi, 137-323. 


measures are spatial. .and temporal limitations. In mythical 
‘thought space and time are never considered as pure or empty 
forms. They are regarded as the great mysterious forces which 
govern all things, which rule and determine not only our mor- 
tal life but also the life of the gods. 

To describe and analyze the specific character which space 
and time assume in human experience is one of the most 
appealing and important tasks of on anthropological philoso- 
phy. It would be a naive and unfounded assumption to 
consider the appearance of space and time as necessarily one 
and the same for all organic beings. Obviously we cannot 
ascribe to the lower organisms the same kind of space percep- 
tion as to man. And even between the human world and the 
^world of the higher anthropoids there remains in this respect 
an unmistakable and ineffaceable difference. Yet it is not easy ■ 
to account for this difference if we merely apply our usual 
psychological methods. We must follow an indirect way: we 
must analyze the forms of human culture in order to discover 
_ the true character of space and time in our human world. 

The first thing that becomes clear by such an analysis is 
that there are fundamentally different types of spatial and 
temporal experience. Not all the forms of this experience are 
on the same level. There are lower and higher strata arranged 
in a certain order. The lowest stratum may be described as 
organic space and time. Every organism lives in a certain en- 
vironment and must constantly adapt itself to the conditions 
of this environment in order to survive. Even in the lower 
organisms adaptation requires a rather complicated system of 
reactions, a differentiation between physical stimuli and an 
adequate response to these stimuli. All this is not learned by 
individual experience. Newborn animals seem to hate a very 
nice and accurate sense of spatial distance and direction. A 
‘young chicken that has just broken out of its shell gets its 
bearings and picks up tire grains spread in its path. The special 
conditions on which this process of spatial orientation depends 
have been carefully studied by biologists and psychologists. 
Although we are unable to answer all the intricate questions 
^concerning the power of orientation in bees, ants, and birds of 
passage, we can at least give a negative answer. We cannot 

6 4 

assume that the animals when performing these very com- 
plicated reactions are guided by any ideational processes. Om 
the contrary they seem to be led by bodily impulses of a special 
kind; they have no mental picture or idea of space, no prospec- 
tus of spatial relations. 

As we approach the higher animals we meet with a new 
form of space which we may term perceptual space. This space 
is not a simple sense datum; it is of a very complex nature, 
containing elements of all the different kinds of sense ex- 
perience-optical, tactual, acoustic, and kinesthetic. The man- 
ner in which all these elements cooperate in the construction 
of perceptual space has proved to be one of the most difficult 
questions of the modem psychology of sensation. A great 
scientist, Hermann von Helmholtz, found it necessary to im 
augurate an entirely new branch of knowledge, to create the 
science of physiological optics, in order to solve the problems 
which confront us here. Nevertheless there still remain many 
questions which cannot for the present be decided in a clear 
and unambiguous manner. In the history of modem psychoh_ 
ogy the strife “on the dark battlefield of nativism ancf 
empiricism'’ has seemed interminable. 1 

We are not concerned here with this aspect of the problem. 
The genetic question, the question of the origin of spatial 
perception, which for a long time has overshadowed and 
eclipsed all the other problems, is not the only question; nor 
is it the most important one. From the point of view of a.-, 
general theory of knowledge and of anthropological philosophy 
another issue now takes our interest and must be brought 
into focus. Rather than investigate the origin and develop- 
ment of perceptual space, we must analyze symbolic space- 
in approaching this issue we are on the borderline between 
the human and animal worlds. With regard to organic space, 
the space of action, man seems in many respects very much* 
inferior to the animals, A child has to learn many skills which 
the animal was bom with. But for this deficiency man is 
compensated by another gift which he alone develops and 

i. See ‘William Stern's observations in his Psychology of Early Child- 
hood, trails, by Anna Batwell (id ed. New York, Holt & Co, 1930 ),' * 
pp. 114 S. 


which bears no analogy to anything in organic nature. Not 
.immediately, but by a very complex and difficult process of 
thought, he arrives at the idea of abstract space - and it is 
this idea which clears the way for man not only to a new 
field of knowledge but to an entirely new direction of his 
Cultural life. 

The greatest difficulties have from the first been encoun- 
tered by the philosophers themselves in accounting for and 
describing the real nature of abstract or symbolic space. The 
' fact of the existence of such a thing as abstract space was one 
of the first and most important discoveries of Greek thought. 
Materialists and idealists alike emphasized the significance of 
this discovery. But thinkers of both persuasions were hard put 
to it to elucidate its logical character. They tended to take 
refuge in paradoxical assertions, Democritus declares that 
space is nonbeing [mi on) but that this nonbcing has, never- 
theless, true reality. Plato in the Timneus refers to the concept 
of space as a logismos nothos-a "hybrid concept” which is 
haidly describable in adequate terms. And even in modem 
'science and philosophy these early difficulties are still un- 
solved. Newton warns us not to confound abstract space-the 
true mathematical space-with the space of our sense experi- 
ence. Common people, he says, think of space, time, and 
motion according to no other principle than the relations these 
concepts bear to sensible objects. But we must abandon this 
principle if we wish to achieve any real scientific or philo- 
sbphic truth : in philosophy we have to abstract from our sense 
data. 8 This Newtonian view became the stumbling block for 
all the systems of sensationalism. Berkeley concentraled all 
his critical attacks on this point. He maintained that New- 
ton’s “true mathematical space” was in fact no more than an 
imaginary space, a fiction of the human mind. And if we 
admit the general principles of Berkeley’s theory of knowledge 
we can scarcely refute this view. We must admit that abstract 
space has no counterpart and no foundation in any physical 
or psychological reality. The points and lines of the geometer 
are neither physical nor psychological objects; they are nothing 

i. See Newton's Principia, Bk. I, Definition 8, Scholium, 


but symbols for abstract relations. If we ascribe “truth" to 
these relations, then the sense of the term truth will hence-, 
forth require redefinition. For we are concerned in the case 
of abstract space not with the truth of things but with the 
truth of propositions and judgments. 

But before this step could be taken and could be system- 
atically grounded, philosophy and science had to travel a long 
way and to pass through many intermediate stages. The history 
of this problem has not yet been written, though it would be 
a very attractive task to trace the individual steps of this 
development. They yield an insight into the very character 
and general tendency of man’s cultural life. I must content 
myself here with selecting a few typical stages. In primitive 
life and under the conditions of primitive society we find 
scarcely any trace of the idea of an abstract space. Primitive 
space is a space of action; and the action is centered around 
immediate practical needs and interests. So far as we can 
speak of a primitive “conception” of space, this conception is 
not of a purely theoretical character. It is still fraught with 
concrete personal or social feelings, with emotional elements.* 
“So fat as the primitive man carries out technical activities 
in space,” writes Heinz Wernei, "so far as he measures dis- 
tances, steen his canoe, hurls his spear at a certain target, and 
so on, his space as a field of action, as a pragmatic space, does 
not differ in its structure from our own. But when primitive 
man makes this space a subject of representation and of re- 
flective thought, there arises a specifically primordial idea dif 
fering radically from any intellectualized version. The idea of 1 
space, ‘for primitive man, even when systematized, is syncreti- 
eally bound up with the subject. It is a notion much more 
affective and concrete than the abstract space of the man of 
advanced culture . . . It is not so much objective, measurable, ' 
and abstract in character. It exhibits egocentric or anthropcjft 
morphic characteristics, and is physiognomic-dynamic, rooted 
in the concrete and substantial." 8 
Frofn the point of view of primitive mentality and primitive 
culture it is indeed an almost impossible task to make that 

■y, Heinz Werner, Comparative Psychology of Mental Development 
(New York, Harper is Bros., 1940) , p. 167. 


decisive step which alone can lead us from the space of action 
jo a theoretical or scientific concept of space-to the space of 
geometry. In the latter all the concrete differences of our im- 
mediate sense experience are wiped out, We no longer have a 
visual, a tactile, an acoustic, or olfactory space. Geometrical 
space abstracts from all the variety and heterogeneity imposed 
upon us by the disparate nature of onr senses. Here we have 
a homogeneous, a universal space. And it was only by the 
medium of this new and characteristic form of space that man 
could arrive at the concept of a unique, systematic cosmic 
order. The idea of such an order, of the unity and the lawful- 
ness of the universe, never could have been reached without 
the idea of a uniform space. But it was a very long time before 
..this step could be made. Primitive thought is not only incap- 
able of thinking of a system of space; it cannot even conceive 
a scheme of space. Its concrete space cannot be brought into 
a schematic shape. Ethnology shows us that primitive tribes 
usually are gifted with an extraordinarily sharp perception of 
space. A native of these tribes has an eye for all the nicest 
•details of his environment. He is extremely sensitive to every 
change in the position of the common objects of his surround- 
ings. Even under very difficult circumstances be will be able 
to find his way. When rowing or sailing he follows with the 
greatest accuracy all the turns of the river that he goes up and 
down. But upon closer examination we discover to our sur- 
prise that in spite of this facility there seems to be a strange 
'belt in his apprehension of space. If you ask him to give you 
a general description, a delineation of tire course of the river 
he is not able to do so. If you wish him to draw a map of the 
river and its various turns he seems not even to understand 
your question. Here we grasp very distinctly the difference be- 
tween the concrete and the abstract apprehension of space 
^and spatial relations. The native is perfectly acquainted with 
the course of the river, but this acquairrtance is very far from 
what we may call knowledge in an abstract, a theoretical sense. 
Acquaintance means only presentation; knowledge includes 
and presupposes representation. The representation of an ob- 
ject is quite a different act from the mere handling of the ob- 
ject. The latter demands nothing but a definite series of 


actions, of bodily movements coordinated with each other or 
following each other. It is a matter of habit acquired by a 
constantly repeated unvarying performance of certain acts. But 
tire representation of space and spatial relations means much 
more. To represent a thing it is not enough to be able to 
manipulate it in the right way and for practical uses. We must 
have a general conception of the object, and regard it from 
different angles in order to find its relations to other objects, 
We must locate it and determine its position in a general 

In the history of human culture this great generalization, 
which led to the conception of a cosmic order, seems first to 
have been made in Babylonian astronomy. Here we find the 
first definite evidence of a thought which transcends the 
. sphere of man’s concrete practical life, which dares to embrace 
the whole universe in a comprehensive view. It is for this 
reason that Babylonian culture has been looked upon as the 
cradle of all cultural life. Many scholars have maintained that 
all the mythological, religious, and scientific conceptions of 
mankind derived from this source. I shall not discuss here: 
these Pan-Babylonian theories , 4 for I wish to raise another 
question. Is it possible to allege a reason for the fact that the 
Babylonians were not only the first to observe the celestial 
phenomena but the first to lay the foundations for a scientific 
astronomy and cosmology? The importance of the phe- 
nomena of the sky had never been completely overlooked. 
Man must very soon have become aware of the fact that his" 
whole life was dependent on certain general cosmic conditions. 
The rising and setting of the sun, the moon, the stars, the 
cycle of the seasons-all these natural phenomena are well- 
known facts that play an important role in primitive mythol- 
ogy. But in order to bring them into a system of thought, 
another condition was requisite which could Only be fulfilled* 
under special circumstances. These favorable circumstances 

d. For these theories see the writings of Hugo Winckler, especially 
Himmdsbi Id und Weifenbiid der Babyhnkr a/s Grund/age der 
Weltanschauung und Mythoiogie aller Volker (Leipzig, 1001) and 
Die babylonischc Geisieskultur in ihren Beziehungen zur Kulturentb 
w/ddung der Menschheit (Leipzig, 1901). 


prevailed at the origin of Babylonian culture. Otto Neu- 
gebauer has written a very interesting study of the history of 
‘ancient mathematics in which he corrects many of the former 
views regarding this matter. The traditional view was that be- 
fore the time of the Greeks no evidences of a scientific mathe- 
matics are to be found. The Babylonians and Egyptians — it 
was generally assumed-had made great practical and techni- 
cal progress; but they had not yet discovered the first elements 
of a theoretical mathematics. According to Neugebauer a criti- 
cal analysis of all the available sources leads to a different in- 
terpretation. It has become clear that the progress made in 
Babylonian astronomy was not an isolated phenomenon. It 
depended upon a more fundamental fact-upon the discovery 
and tire use of a new intellectual instrument, The Babylo- 
nians had discovered a symbolic algebra. In comparison with 
later developments of mathematical thought this algebra was 
still of course very simple and elementary. Nevertheless it con- 
tained a new and extremely fertile conception. Neugebauer 
traces this conception down to the very beginnings of Babylo- 
nian culture. In Order to understand the characteristic form 
of Babylonian algebra, he tells us, we have to take into account 
the historical background of Babylonian civilization. This civ- 
ilization evolved under special conditions. It was the product 
of a meeting and collision between two different races-the 
Sumerians and tile Akkadians. The two races are of different 
origin and speak languages which bear no relation to one an- 
'tfthcr. The language of the Akkadians belongs to the Semitic 
type; that of the Sumerians to another group which is neither 
Semitic nor Indo-European. When these two peoplis met, 
when they came to share in a common political, social, and 
cultural life, they had new problems to solve, problems for 
which they found it necessary to develop new intellectual 
powers. The original language ol the Sumerians could not be 
understood; their written texts could not be deciphered by the 
Akkadians without great difficulty and constant mental effort. 
It was by this effort that the Babylonians first learned to under- 
stand the meaning and uses of an abstract symbolism. "Every 
^algebraic operation,” says Neugebauer, "presupposes that one 
possesses certain fixed symbols both for tire mathematical 


operation and foi the quantities to which these operations are 
applied. Without such a conceptual symbolism it would not be 
possible to combine quantities that ate not numerically deter- 
mined and designated and it would not be possible to derive 
new combinations from them. But such a symbolism pre- 
sented itself immediately and necessarily in the writing of 
Akkadian texts. , . . From the very beginning the Babylo- 
nians could, therefore, dispose of the most important giound- 
work of an algebraic development-of an appropriate and ade- 
quate symbolism.” s 

In Babylonian astronomy we find, however, only the first 
phases of that great process which finally led to the intellectual 
conquest of space and to the discovery of a cosmic order, of a 
system of the universe. Mathematical thought as such could 
not lead to an immediate solution of the problem, for in the 
dawn of human civilization mathematical drought never ap- 
pears in its true logical shape. It is, as it were, wrapped in the 
atmosphere of mythical thought. The first discoverers of a 
scientific mathematics could not break through this veil. The 
Pythagoreans spoke of number as a magical and mysterious- 
power, and even in their theory of space they use a mythical 
language. 'This interpenetration of seemingly heterogeneous 
elements becomes especially conspicuous in all the primitive 
systems of cosmogony. Babylonian astronomy in its entirety 
is still a mythical interpretation of the universe. It was no 
longer restricted within the narrow sphere of concrete, cor- 
poreal, primitive space. Space is, so to speak, transposed fro if' 
the earth to the heavens. But when turning to the order of 
the celestial phenomena mankind could not forget its terres- 
trial needs and interests. If man first directed his eyes to the 
heavens, it was not to satisfy a merely intellectual curiosity. 
What man really sought in the heavens was his own reflection 
and the order of his human universe. He felt that his worl^, 
was bound by innumerable visible and invisible ties to the 
general order of the universe-and he tried to penetrate into 
this mysterious connection. The celestial phenomena could 

;. Otto Neugebauer, "Vorgriechische Matbematik,” in Vorlesungen 
fiber die Geschichte der antiken Matliematischen Wissenscbafte^, 
(Berlin, J, Springer, 1934), I, 68 S. 


not, therefore, be studied in a detached spirit of abstract medi- 
tation and pure science. They were regarded as the masters 
"and rulers of the world and the governors of human life. In 
order ta organize the political, the social, and the moral life 
of man it proved to be necessary to turn to the heavens. No 
human phenomenon seemed to explain itself; it had to be ex- 
plained by referring it to a corresponding heavenly phe- 
nomenon on which it depends. From these considerations it 
becomes clear that and why the space of the first astronomical 
. systems could not be a mere theoretical space. It did not con- 
sist of points or lines, of superficies in the abstract geometrical 
sense of these terms. It was filled with magical, with divine and 
demonic powers. The first and essential aim of astronomy was 
. ,to win an insight into the nature and activity of these powers 
in order to foresee and to evade their dangerous influences. 
Astronomy could not arise except in this mythical and magical 
shape-in the shape of astrology. It preserved this character for 
many thousands of years; in a certain sense it was still preva- 
lent in the first centuries of our own age, in the culture of 
■the Renaissance. Even Kepler, the teal founder of our own 
scientific astronomy, had to struggle throughout his life with 
this problem. But finally this last step had to be made. As- 
tronomy supersedes astrology; geometrical space takes the 
place of mythical and magical space. It was a false and 
erroneous form of symbolic thought that first paved the way 
to a new and true symbolism, the symbolism of modern 

One of the first and most difficult tasks of modern philoso- 
phy was to understand this symbolism in its true sensewnd in 
its full significance. If we study the evolution of Cartesian 
thought we find that Descartes did not begin with his Cogito 
ergo sum. He began with his concept and ideal of a mathesis 
f universalis , His ideal was founded upon a great mathematical 
discovery— analytical geometry. In this symbolic thought took 
another step forward which was to have the most important 
systematic consequences. It became clear that all owknowl- 
edge of space and spatial relations could be translated into a 
^>ew language, that of numbers, and that by this translation 
' and transformation the true logical character of geometrical 

1 A 

thought could be conceived in a much dearer and more ade- 
quate way. 

We find the same characteristic progress when we pass from 
the problem of space to the problem of time. It is true that 
there are not only strict analogies but also characteristic dif- 
ferences in the development of both concepts. According to 
Kant space is the form of our “outer experience,” time the 
form of our "inner experience.” In the interpretation of, his 
inner experience man had new problems to confront. Here he 
could not use the same methods as in his first attempt to or- 
ganize and systematize bis knowledge of the physical world. 
There is, however, a common background for both questions. 
Even time is first thought of not as a specific form of human 
life but as a general condition of organic life. Organic life 
exists only so far as it evolves in time. It is not a thing but a 
process-a never-resting continuous stream of events. In this 
stream nothing ever recurs in the same identical shape. 
Heraclitus' saying holds good for all organic life: “You cannot 
step twice into the same river.” When dealing with the prob- 
lem of organic life we have, first and foremost, to free ourselves 
from what Whitehead has called the prejudice of "simple 
location.” The organism is never located in a single instant. 
In its life the three modes of time-the past, the present, and 
the future-form a whole which cannot be split up into in- 
dividual elements. “Le present est chargd du passd, et gros 
de l'avenir," said Leibniz. We cannot describe the momentary 
state of an organism without taking its history into consider^ 
tion and without referring it to a future state for which this 
state is merely a point of passage. 

One of the most distinguished physiologists of the nine- 
teenth century, Ewald Hering, defended the theory that mem- 
ory is to he regarded as a general function of all organic 
matter. 8 It is not only a phenomenon of our conscious life but*' 
it is spread over the whole domain of living nature. This theory 
was accepted and further developed by R. Semon, who, upon 
this basis, developed a new genera] scheme of psychology, 

6. See Ewald Hering, fiber das Gedjichtnis als eine allgemeine Funk-., 
tion der organischen Materie (1870). 


According to Semon the only approach to a scientific psy- 
chology is by way of a “mnemic biology," “Mneme" was de- 
fined by Semon as the principle of conservation in the 
mutability of all organic happenings. Memory and heredity 
are two aspects of the same organic function. Every stimulus 
which acts upon an organism leaves in it an ‘‘engram,’' a 
definite physiological trace; and all the future reactions of the 
organism are dependent upon the chain of these engrams, 
upon the connected “engram complex .” 7 But even if we 
admit the general thesis of Hering and Semon we are still 
very far from having explained the role and significance 
of memory in our human world. The anthropological concept 
of mneme or memory is something quite different. If we 
understand memory as a general function of all organic 
matter we mean merely that the organism preserves some 
traces of its former experience and that these traces have 
a definite influence upon its later reactions. But in order 
to have memory in the human sense of the word it is 
not enough that there remains “a latent remnant of the 
former action of a stimulus ." 8 The mere presence, the 
sum total of these remnants, cannot account for the phenome- 
non of memory. Memory implies a process of recognition and 
identification, an ideational process of a very complex sort. The 
former impressions must not only be repeated; they must also 
be ordered and located, and referred to different points in 
time. Such a location is not possible without conceiving time 
as a general scheme— as a serial order which comprises all the 
individual events. The awareness of time necessarily implies 
the concept of such a serial order corresponding to that other 
schema which we call space. 

Memory as a simple reproduction of a former event occurs 
also in the life of the higher animals. To what degree it de- 
pends on ideational processes comparable to those we find in 
man is a difficult and much controverted problem. Robert M, 

7, For details see Semen’s Mneme (1909) and Die mnepiisdien 
Empfindungen (1909), An abridged English version of these books, 
edited by Bella Duffy, has been published under the title Mnemic 
Psychology (New York, 1923}. 

8. “Der latente Rest eincr friiheren Reizwitkung” (Semon). 


Yerkes in his latest book devotes a special chapter to the in- 
vestigation and clarification of the problem. Do these animals, 
he asks with reference to the chimpanzees, “act as if able to 
remember, recall, recognize previous experiences, or is out of 
sight really out of mind? Can they anticipate, expect, imagine, 
and on the basis of such awareness prepare for future events? 

. . . Can they solve problems and generally adapt to en- 
vironmental situations by the aid of symbolic processes 
analogous to our verbal symbols as well as by dependence an 
associations which function as signs?’ 1 6 Yerkes is inclined to . 
answer all these questions in the affirmative. But even if we 
accept all his evidence the crucial question still remains. For 
what matters here is not so much the fact of ideational 
processes in men and animals as the form of these processes. 
In nran we cannot describe recollection as a simple return of 
an event, as a faint image or copy of former impressions. It is 
not simply a repetition but rather a rebirth of the past; it 
implies a creative and constructive process. It is not enough 
to pick up isolated data of our past experience; we must really 
re-collect them, we must organize and synthesize them, and; 
assemble them into a locus of thought. It is this kind of recol- 
lection which gives us the characteristic human shape of 
memory, and distinguishes it from all the other phenomena in 
animal or organic life. 

To be sure, in our ordinary experience we find many forms 
of recollection or memory which obviously do not correspond 
to this description. Many, perhaps most, cases of memory maf 
quite adequately be accounted lor according to the usual ap- 
proach of the schools of sensationalism, that is, explained by a 
simple mechanism of the "association of ideas." Many psy- 
chologists have been convinced that there is no better way to 
test the memory of a person than to find out how many mean- 
ingless words or syllables he can keep in mind and repeat after? 
a certain lapse of time. The experiments made upon this pre- 
supposition seemed to give the only exact measure of human 
memory. One of Bergson’s contributions to psychology con- 
sists in his attacks on all these mechanical theories of memory. 

q, Yokes, Chimpanzees, p. 145. 



According to Bergson’s view, developed in Matike et mem- 
oirs, memory is a much deeper and more complex phenom- 
enon. It means "internalization'’ and intensification; it means 
the interpenetration of all the elements of our past life. In 
Bergson’s work this theory became a new metaphysical start- 
ing point, which proved to be the cornerstone of his philoso- 
phy of life. 

We are not concerned here with this metaphysical aspect of 
the prohlem. Our objective is a phenomenology of human 
culture. We must by, therefore, to illustrate and to elucidate 
the issue by concrete examples taken from man’s cultural life. 
A classical illustration is Goethe's life and works. Symbolic 
memory is the process by which man not only repeats his past 
experience but also reconstructs this experience. Imagination 
becomes a necessary element of true recollection. This was 
the reason why Goethe entitled his autobiography Poetry and' 
Truth (Dichtung und Wahrheit). He did not mean that he 
had inserted into the narrative of his life any imaginary or 
fictitious elements. He wanted to discover and describe the 
truth about his life; but this truth could only be found by 
giving to the isolated and dispersed facts of his life a poetical, 
that is a symbolic, shape. Other poets have viewed their work 
in similar fashion. To be a poet, declared Henrik Ibsen, means 
to preside as judge over oneself. 10 Poetry is one of the forms in 
which a man may give the verdict on himself and his life. It is 
self-knowledge and self-criticism. Such criticism is not to be 
understood in a moral sense. It does not mean appraisal or 
blame, justification or condemnation, but a new and deeper 
understanding, a reinterpretation of the poet’s personal life. 
The process is not restricted to poetry; it is possible in every 
other medium of artistic expression. If we look at, the self- 
portraits of Rembrandt painted in the different epochs of his 
life we find in the features the whole story of Rembrandt’s 
life, of his personality, of his development as an artist 

Yet poetry is not the only, and perhaps not the most char- 
acteristic, form of symbolic memory. The first great example 

10. “At leve er — trig med trulde i bjertets og hjemens bvaelv. 

Att digte,—- det er at holde dommedag over sig selv.” 

Ibsen, Digte (5th ed. Copenhagen, 1886), p. 203, 

7 s 

of what ail autobiography is and means was given in Augus- 
tine’s Confessions. Here we find quite a different type of self- 
examination, Augustine does not relate the events of his own 
life, which were to him scarcely worthy of being remembered 
or recorded. The drama told by Augustine is the religious 
drama of mankind. His own conversion is hut the repetition 
and reflection of the universal religious process-of man’s fall 
and redemption. Every line in Augustine’s book has not 
merely a historical bnt also a hidden symbolic meaning. 
Augustine could not understand his own life or speak of it 
except in the symbolic language of the Christian faith. By 
this procedure he became both a great religious thinker and 
the founder of a new psychology, of a new method of intro- 
spection and self-examination. 

So far we have taken under consideration only one aspect of 
■time-the relation of the present to the past. But there is yet 
another aspect which seems to be even more important to, and 
more characteristic of, the structure of human life, This is 
what might he called the third dimension of time, the di- 
mension of tire future. In our consciousness of time the future 
is an indispensable element. Even in the earliest stages of life 
this element begins to play a dominant role. “It is character- 
istic of the whole early development of the life of ideas," 
writes William Stem, “that they do not appear so much as 
memories pointing to something in the past, but as expecta- 
tions directed to the future-even though only to a future im- 
mediately at hand. We meet here for the first time a general j 
law of development. Reference to the future is grasped by 
the consciousness sooner than that to the past.” 11 In our later 
life this tendency becomes even more pronounced. We live 
much more in our doubts and fears, our anxieties and hopes 
about the future, than in our recollections or in our present 
experiences. This would appear at first glance as a questionable , 
human endowment, for it introduces an element of uncer- 
tainty into human life which is alien to all other creatures. It 
seems as' though man would be wiser and happier if he got 
rid of this fantastic idea, of this mirage of the future. Philoso- 

u. Stan, op. at, pp. in f. 



phers, poets, and great religious teachers have at all times 
warned man against this source of constant self-deception. 
Religion admonishes man not to be fearful of the day to come, 
and human wisdom advises him to enjoy the present day, not 
caring for the future. “Quid sit futurum eras fuge quaerere 
says Horace. But man never could follow this advice. To think 
of the future and to live in the future is a necessary part of 
his nature. 

In a certain sense this tendency appears not to exceed the 
, limits of all organic life. It is characteristic of all organic 
processes that we cannot describe them without reference to 
the future. Most of the animal instincts must he interpreted 
in this way. Instinctive actions are not prompted by immediate 
needs; they are impulses directed to the future, and often to a 
very remote future. The effect of these actions will not be seen 
by the animal which performs them, since it belongs to the' 
life of the generation to come. If wc study a book like Jules 
Fabre's Souvenirs entomologiques , we find on nearly every 
page striking examples of this characteristic of animal in- 
*• stincts. 

All this does not require, and does not prove, any "idea," 
any conception or awareness of the future in the lower animals. 
As soon as we approach the life of the higher animals the case 
becomes doubtful. Many competent observers have spoken of 
the foresight of higher animals; and it would seem as if, with- 
out this assumption, we could hardly give an adequate de- 
1 ‘scription of their behavior. If in Wolfe’s experiments an animal 
accepts token-rewards for real ones, this seems to imply a 
conscious anticipation of future facts; the animal Expects” 
that the tokens may later on he exchanged for food. “The 
number of observations is small,” writes Wolfgang Koehler, 
"in which any reckoning upon a future contingency is recog- 
^ nizable, and it seems to me of theoretical importance that the 
clearest consideration of a future event occurs then when the 
anticipated event is a planned act of the animd itsdf. In such 
a case it may really happen that an animal will spend con- 
siderable time in preparatory work (in an unequivocal sense) 
... Where such preliminary work, obviously undertaken with 
a view to the final goal, lasts a long time, but in itself affords 

7 & 

no visible approach to that end, there we have the signs of at 
least some sense of future.” 12 

On the basis of this evidence it seems to follow that the 
anticipation of future events and even the planning of future 
actions are not entirely beyond the reach of animal life. But 
in human beings the awareness of the future undergoes the 
same characteristic change of meaning which we have noted 
with regard to the idea of the past. The future is not only an 
image; it becomes an “ideal." The meaning of this transfor- 
mation manifests itself in all the phases of man’s cultural life. 
So long as he remains entirely absorbed in his practical ac- 
tivities the difference is not clearly observable. It appears to 
be merely a difference of degree, not a specific difference. To 
be sure the future envisaged by man extends over a much 
wider area, and his planning is much more conscious and care- 
■ (ul. But all this still belongs to the realm of prudence, not to 
that of wisdom. The term “prudence” ( prudentia ) is etymo- 
logically connected with “providence” (p rovidentici). It means 
the ability to foresee future events and to prepare for future 
needs. But the theoretical idea of the future— that idea which 
is a prerequisite of all man's higher cultural activities— is of a 
quite different sort. It is more than mere expectation; it be- 
comes an imperative of human life. And this imperative 
reaches far beyond man’s immediate practical needs-in its 
highest form it reaches beyond the limits of his empirical life. 
This is man’s symbolic future, which corresponds to and is in 
strict analogy with his symbolic past. We may call it “pro- 
phetic" future because it is nowhere better expressed than in 
die liver of the great religions prophets. These religious teach- 
ers were never content simply to foretell future events or to 
warn against future evils. Nor did they speak like augurs and 
accept the evidence of omens or presages. Theirs was another 
aim-in fact the very opposite of that of the soothsayers. The 
future of which they spoke was not an empirical fact but an 
ethical and religious task. Hence prediction was transformed 
into prophecy. Prophecy does not mean simply foretelling; it 
means a promise. This is the new feature which first become; 

la. Koehler, The Mentality of Apes, p. 282. 



clear in the prophets of Israel— in Isaiah, Jeremiah, and 
^Ezekiel. Their ideal future signifies the negation of the empir- 
ical world, the “end of all days”; but it contains at the same 
time the hope and the assurance of "a new heaven and a new 
earth.” Here too man’s symbolic power ventures beyond all 
the limits of his finite existence. But this negation implies a 
new and great act of integration; it marks a decisive phase in 
man’s ethical and religious life. 

5 Facts and Ideals 

In his Critique of Judgment Kant raises the question 
whether it is possible to discover a general criterion by which 
we may describe the fundamental structure of the human in- 
tellect and distinguish this structure from all other possible 
modes of knowing. After a penetrating analysis he is led to the 
conclusion that such a criterion is to be sought in the character 
of human knowledge, which is such that the understanding is 
under the necessity of making a sharp distinction between the 
reality and the possibility of things. It is this character of 
human knowledge which determines the place of man in the 
general chain of being. A difference between “real” and “pos- 
sible” exists neither for the beings below man nor for those 
above him. The beings below man are confined within the 
world of their sense perceptions. They are susceptible to actual 
“physical stimuli and react to these stimuli. But they can form 
no idea of “possible” things. On the other hand the super- 
human intellect, the divine mind, knows no distinction be- 
tween reality and possiblity. God is actus pwus. Everything 
he conceives is real. God's intelligence is an intelkctus 
archetypus or intuitus originarius. He cannot think of a thing 
without, by this very act of thinking, creating and producing 
the thing. It is only in man, in his "derivative intelligence” 
{; intelkctus ectypus) that the problem of possibility arises. ’The 
difference between actuality and possibility is not metaphysi- 
cal but epistemological. It docs not denote any character of 
the things in themselves; it applies only to our knowledge of 
things. Kant did not mean to assert in a positive and dogmatic 


manner that a divine intellect, an intuitus orig irnmus, leally 
exists. He merely employed the concept of such an “intuitive 
understanding” in order to describe the nature and limits of ' 
the human intellect. The latter is a “discursive understand- 
ing,” dependent upon two heterogeneous elements. We can- 
not think without images, and we cannot intuit without 
concepts. “Concepts without intuitions are empty; intuitions 
without concepts are blind.” It is this dualism in the funda- 
mental conditions of knowledge which, according to Kant, lies 
at the bottom of our distinction between possibility and ac- 
tuality. 1 

From the point of view of our present problem this Kantian 
passage-one of the most important and most difficult in 
Kant’s critical works-is of special interest. It indicates a prob- 
lem crucial to any anthropological philosophy. Instead of say- 
'ing that the human intellect is an intellect which is “in need 
of images” 2 we should rather say that it is in need of symbols. 
Human knowledge is by its very nature symbolic knowledge. 
It is this feature which characterizes both its strength and its 
limitations. And for symbolic thought it is indispensable to 
make a sharp distinction between real and possible, between 
actual and ideal things. A symbol has no actual existence as a 
part of the physical world; it has a “meaning." In primitive 
thought it is still very difficult to differentiate between the 
two spheres of being and meaning. They are constantly being 
confused: a symbol is looked upon as if it were endowed with 
magical or physical powers. But in the further progress of- 
human culture the difference between things and symbols be- 
comes dearly felt, which means that the distinction between 
actuality and possibility also becomes more and more pro- 

This interdependence may be proved in an indirect way. 
Wc find that under special conditions in which the function of 
symbolic thought is impeded or obscured, the difference be- 
tween actuality and possibility also becomes uncertain. It can 
no longer be clearly perceived. Tire pathology' of speech has 

r. See Kant, Critique of Judgment, secs. 76, 77. 
a. ", , . ein der Bildet bedusftiger Veistand" (Kant) . 



thrown interesting light on this problem. In cases of aphasia it 
.has very often been found that the patients had not only lost 
the use of special classes of words but at the same time ex- 
hibited a curious deficiency in their general intellectual at- 
titude. Practically speaking, many of these patients did not 
deviate very much from the behavior of normal persons. But 
when they were confronted with a problem that required a 
more abstract mode of thinking, when they had to think of 
mere possibilities rather than actualities, they immediately ex- 
perienced great difficulty. They could not think ot speak of 
“unreal” things. A patient who was suffering from a hemi- 
plegia, from a paralysis of his right land, could not, for 
instance, utter the words: "I can write with my right hand.” 
He even refused to repeat these words when they were pro- 
nounced for him by the physician. But he could easily say: “I 
can write with my left hind" because this was to him the ' 
statement of a fact, not of a hypothetical or unreal case.5 
“These and similar examples,” declares Kurt Goldstein, 
“show that the patient is unable to deal with any merely 
'possible 1 situation at all. Thus we may also describe the de- 
ficiency in these patients as a lack of capacity for approaching,*- 
a ‘possible’ situation. . , . Our patients have the greatest dif- 
ficulty in starting any performance which is not determined 
directly by external stimuli. . . . They have great trouble in 

3. Also children sometimes seem to have great difficulty in imagin- 
ing hypothetical cases. This becomes particularly dear when the de- 
velopment of a child is retarded by special circumstances. A striking 
parallel to the above-mentioned pathological cases may, for instance, 
be quoted from the life and education of Laura Bridgman “It has 
been remarked,” writes one of her teachers, "that it was very difficult 
in the beginning to make her understand figures of speech, fables, 
or supposititious cases of any kind, and this difficulty is riot yet en- 
tirely overcome. If any sum in arithmetic is given to her, the first 
impression is, that what is supposed did actually happen. For in- 
stance, a few mornings ago, when her teacher took an arithmetic to 
read a sum, she asked: ‘How did the man who mote that book know 
l was here?' The sum given her was this; 'if you can buy a barrel of 
cider for four dollars, how much can you buy for one dollar?’ upon 
which her first comment was, T cannot give much for cider, because 
it is very sour,' ” See Maud Howe and Florence Howe Hall, Laura 
Bridgman, p. 112. 


voluntary shifting, in switching over voluntarily from one topic 
to another. Consequently they fail in performances in which, 
such a shift is necessary, . . . Shifting presupposes that I have 
in mind simultaneously the object to which I am reacting at 
the moment and the one to which I am going to react. One is 
in the foreground, the other in the background. But it is 
essential that the object in the background he there as a pos- 
sible object for future reaction. Only then can 1 change from 
one to the other. This presupposes the capacity for approach- 
ing things that are only imagined, 'possible’ things, tilings * 
which are not given in the concrete situation. . . . The men- 
tally sick man is incapable of this because of his inability to 
grasp what is abstract. Our patients are unable to imitate or 
copy anything that is not a part of their immediate concrete- 
experience. It is a very interesting expression of this incapacity 
that they have the greatest difficulty in repeating a sentence 
which is meaningless for them-that is, the contents of which 
do not correspond to the reality they are capable of grasping. 
... To say such things apparently requires the assumption of 
a very difficult attitude. It demands, so to speak, the ability-! 
to live in two spheres, the concrete sphere where real things 
take place and the non-concrete, the merely ‘possible’ sphere. 

. . . This the patient is unable to do, He can live and act only 
in the concrete sphere." 4 

Here we have our finger on a universal problem, a problem 
of paramount importance for the whole character and develop- 
ment of human culture. Empiricists and positivists have al- 
ways maintained that the highest task of human knowledge is 
to give -is the facts and nothing hut the facts. A theory not 
based on facts would indeed be a castle in the air. But this is 
no answer to the problem of a true scientific method; it is, on 
the contrary, the problem itself. For what is the meaning of 
a "scientific fact"? Obviously no such fact is given in any 
haphazard observation or in a mere accumulation of sense 
data. The facts of science always imply a theoretical, which 
means a symbolic, element. Many, if not most, of those 

4. Kurt Goldstein, Human Nature in the Light of Psychopathology, 
pp. 49 ff., no. 


scientific facts which have changed the whole course of the 
i-histoiy of science have been hypothetical facts before they be- 
came observable facts. When Galileo founded his new science 
of dynamics he had to begin with the conception of an entirely 
isolated body, a body which moves without the influence of 
any external force. Such a body had never been observed and 
could never be observed. It was not an actual but a possible 
body-and in a sense it was not even possible, for the condition 
upon which Galileo based his conclusion, the absence of all 
external forces, is never realized in nature.® It has been rightly 
emphasized that all the conceptions which led to the discovery 
of the principle of inertia are by no means evident or natural; 
that to the Greeks, as well as to men of the Middle Ages, 
these conceptions would have appeared as evidently false, and 
even absurd. 0 Nevertheless, without the aid of these quite 
unreal conceptions Galileo could not have proposed his theory 1 
of motion; nor could he have developed "a new science dealing 
with a very ancient subject." And the same holds for almost 
all the other great scientific theories. Upon first appearance 
they were invariably great paradoxes that it took unusual in- 
tellectual courage to propound and to defend. 

There is perhaps no better way to prove this point than to 
consider the history of mathematics. One of the most funda- 
mental concepts of mathematics is number. Since tire time of 
the Pythagoreans number has been recognized as the central 
theme of mathematical drought. Finding a comprehensive 
* and adequate theory of number became the greatest and most 
urgent task of students in this field. But at every step in this 
direction mathematicians and philosophers faced the fame dif- 
ficulty. They were constantly under the necessity of enlarging 
their field and of introducing “new" numbers, All these new 
numbers were of a highly paradoxical character. Their first ap- 
pearance aroused the deepest suspicions of mathematicians 
and logicians. They were thought to he absurd or impossible. 

5. For a more detailed treatment of the problem see Cassirer, Sub- 
stsnzbegriff und FimktionsbegriS, English tans, by W, C. and M. 
C. Swabey, Substance and Function (Chicago and London, 1523). 

6. See A. Koyrd, “Galileo and the Scientific Revolution of the Seven- 
teenth Century,” Philosophical Review, HI (1943), 392 S. 

We can trace this development in the history of negative, 
irrational, and imaginary numbers. The very term "irrational"). 
(dntion) means a thing not to be thought of and not to be 
spoken of. Negative numbers first appear in the sixteenth cen- 
tury in Michael Stifel's Aritkmetica infegra-and here they 
are called “fictitious numbers” ( numeti ficti). For a long time 
even the greatest mathematicians looked upon the idea of 
imaginary numbers as an insoluble mystery. The first to give a 
satisfactory explanation and sound theory of these numbers 
was Gauss. The same doubts and hesitations recurred in the • 
field of geometry when the first non-Euclidean systems-those 
of Lobatschevski, Bolyai, and Riemann-began to appear. In 
all the great systems of rationalism mathematics had been 
considered the pride of human reasDn-the province of “clear 
and distinct” ideas. But this reputation seemed suddenly 
' called m question. Far from being clear and distinct the funda- 
mental mathematical concepts proved to be fraught with pit- 
falls and obscurities. These obscurities could not be removed 
until the general character of mathematical concepts had been 
clearly recognized-until it had been acknowledged that s 
mathematics is not a theory of things but a theory of symbols. 

The lesson we derive from the history of mathematical 
thought may be supplemented and confirmed by other con- 
siderations which at first sight seem to belong to a different 
sphere. Mathematics is not the only subject in which the gen- 
eral function of symbolic thought may be studied. The rea!^ 
nature and full force of this thought become even more evi-“ 
dent if we turn to the development of our ethical ideas and 
ideals. Kant’s observation that for the human understanding 
it is both necessary and indispensable to distinguish between 
the reality and possibility of things expresses not only a general 
characteristic of theoretical reason but a truth about practical 
reason as well. It is characteristic of all the great ethical phi- ~ 
losophers that they do not think in terms of mere actuality. 
Their ideas cannot advance a single step without enlarging 
and even transcending the limits of the actual world. Possessed 
of great intellectual and moral power, the ethical teachers of 
mankind were endowed too with a profound imagination. 


Their imaginative insight permeates and animates all their 

The writings of Plato and of his followers have always been 
liable to the objection that they refer to a completely unreal 
world. But the great ethical thinkers did not fear this objec- 
tion. They accepted it and proceeded openly to defy it. “The 
Platonic Republic,” writes Kant in the Critique of Pure 
Reason, “has been supposed to be a striking example of purely 
imaginary perfection. It has become a byword, as something 
’ that could exist only in the brain of an idle thinker. . . . We 
should do better, however, to follow up his thought and en- 
deavor to place it in a clearer light by our own efforts, rather 
than to throw it aside as useless, under the miserable and very 
dangerous pretext of its impracticability. ... For nothing 
can be more mischievous and more unworthy of a philosopher 
than the vulgar appeal to what is called adverse experience, 
which possibly might never have existed if at the proper time 
institutions had been formed according to tbose ideas, and 
,not according to crude conceptions which, because they were 
derived from experience only, have marred all good intentions.’ 

All modem ethical and political theories which have been 
molded after Plato’s Republic have been conceived in the 
same vein of thought. When Thomas More wrote his Utopia 
he expressed this view in the very title of his work, A Utopia is 
not a portrait of the real world, or of the actual political or 
<|ocial order. It exists at no moment of time and at no point 
in space; it is a "nowhere.” But just such a conception of a 
nowhere has stood the test and proved its strength in the 
development of the modem world. It follows from tSe very 
nature and character of ethical thought that it can never con- 
descend to accept “the given.” The ethical world is never 
given; it is forever in the making. “To live in the ideal world," 
"■said Goethe, “is to treat the impossible as if it were possi- 
ble ." 7 The great political and social reformers are indeed 
constantly under the necessity of treating the impossible as 
though it were possible. In his first political writings Rousseau 

, 7, "In der Idee leben heisst das Umnogliche so behandeln als warn 
"es mbglich ware.” Goethe, Spriicbe m Piosa, "Werke” (Weimar 
ed.), XLII, Ft. II, 142. 


seems to speak as a determined naturalist. He wishes to restore 
the natural rights of man and to bring him hack to his original’' 
state, to the state of nature. The natural man (Vhomnw da 
nature) is to replace the conventional, social man (I'homme de 
F Homme] . But if we pursue the further development of Rous- 
seau’s thought it becomes clear that even this “natural man” 
is far from a physical concept, that it is in fact a symbolic 
concept. Rousseau himself could not forbear admitting this 
fact. "Let us begin,” he says in the Introduction to his Dis- 
cours sur I'origine et les jondements de I'inigaliti pami les 
homines, "by laying aside facts [ par ecarter tons les jaits]; for 
they do not affect the question. The researches, in which we 
may engage on this occasion, are not to be taken for historical 
truths, but merely as hypothetical and conditional reasonings, 
fitter to illustrate the nature of tilings than to show their true 
origin; like those systems which our naturalists daily make of 
the formation of the world.” In these words Rousseau at- 
tempts to introduce that hypothetical method which Galileo 
had employed for the study of natural phenomena into the. 
field of the moral sciences; and he is convinced that only by 
way of such “hypothetical and conditional reasoning" ( des 
raisannements hypothdtiques et can we arrive 
at a true understanding of the nature of man. Rousseau’s 
description of the state of nature was not intended as a histori- 
cal narrative of the past. It was a symbolic construct designed 
to portray and to bring into being a new future for mankind* 
In the history of civilization the Utopia has always fulfilled 
this task. In the philosophy of the Enlightenment it became 
a literary genre by itself, and proved one of the most powerful 
weapons in all attacks on the existing political and social order. 
To this" end it was used by Montesquieu, by Voltaire, and by 
Swift. In the nineteenth century Samuel Butler made similar 
use of it. The great mission of the Utopia is to make room for’ 
the possible as o pposed. t o a passive acquiescence in the presen t 
actualijtate of affairs. Itjs jynibQlifiJitQltght which overcomes 
tEenaturi nnertia of man a nd endows him wi th a new ability, 
the ability constantly to reshape his human universe. 


6 The Definition of Man in Terms of Human Culture 

It was a turning point in Greek culture and Greek thought 
Twhcn Plato interpreted the maxim "Know thyself' in an en- 
tirely new sense. This interpretation introduced a problem 
which was not only alien to pre-Socratic thought but also went 
far beyond the limits of the Socratic method. In order to obey 
the demand of the Delphic god, in order to fulfil the religious 
duty of self-examination and self-knowledge, Socrates had ap- 
' proached the individual man. Plato recognized the limitations 
of the Socratic way of inquiry. In order to solve the problem, 
he declared, we must project it upon a larger plan. The 
phenomena we encounter in our individual experience are so 
various, so complicated and contradictory that we can scarcely 
disentangle them. Man is to be studied not in his individual 
r life but in his political and social life. Human nature, accord- 
ing to Plato, is like a difficult text, the meaning of which has 
to be deciphered by philosophy. But in our personal experi- 
ence this text is written in such small characters ‘that it 
becomes illegible. The first labor of philosophy must be to en- 
large these characters. Philosophy cannot give us a satisfactory 
theory of man until it has developed a theory of the state. 
» The nature of man is written in capital letters in the nature 
of the state. Here the hidden meaning of the text suddenly 
emerges, and what seemed obscure and confused becomes 
clear and legible. 

But political life is not the only form of a communal human 
, existence. In the history of mankind the state, in its present 
form, is a late product of the civilizing process. Long before 

man had discovered this form of social organization he had 
made other attempts to organize his feelings, desires, and- 
thoughts. Such organizations and systematizations are con- 
tained in language, in myth, in religion, and in art. We must 
accept this broader basis if we wish to develop a theory of 
man. The state, however important, is not all. It cannot ex- 
press or absorb all the other activities of man. To be sure, these 
activities in their historical evolution are closely connected 
with the development of the state; in many respects they are 
dependent upon the forms of political life, But, while not 
possessing a separate historical existence, they have neverthe- 
less a purport and value of their own. 

In modern philosophy Comte was one of the first to ap- 
proach this problem and to formulate it in a cleat and sys- 
tematic way. It is something of a paradox that in this respect 
we must regard the positivism of Comte as a modem parallel 
to the Platonic theory of man. Comte was of course never a 
Platonist, He could not accept the logical and metaphysical 
presuppositions upon which Plato’s theory of ideas is based. , 
Yet, on the other hand, he was strongly opposed to the views 
of the French ideologists. In his hierarchy of human knowledge 
two new sciences, the science of social ethics and that of social 
dynamics, occupy the highest rank. From this sociological 
viewpoint Comte attacks the psychologism of his age. One of 
the fundamental maxims of his philosophy is that our method 
of studying man must, indeed, be subjective, but that it cam, 
not be individual. For the subject we wish to know is not the 
individual consciousness but the universal subject. If we refer 
to this subject by the term "humanity," then we must affirm 
that humanity is not to be explained by man, but man by 
humanity. The problem must be reformulated and re-ex- 
amined; it must be put on a broader and sounder basis. Such, 
a basis we have discovered in sociological and historical 
thought. “To know yourself” says Comte, “know history.” 
Henceforth historical psychology supplements and supersedes 
all previous forms of individual psychology. “The so-called 
observations made on the mind, considered in itself and a 
priori, ” wrote Comte in a letter, “are pure illusions. All that 


we call logic, metaphysics, ideology , is an idle fancy and a 
.jlream when it is net an absurdity.'’ 1 

In Comte’s Cours de philosophic positive we can trace step 
by step the nineteentli-century transition in methodological 
ideals. Comte began merely as a scientist, his interest being 
apparently wholly absorbed in mathematical, physical, and 
chemical problems, In his hierarchy of human knowledge the 
scale goes from astronomy through mathematics, physics, and 
chemistry to biology. Then comes what looks like a sudden 
• reversal of this order. As we approach the human world the 
principles of mathematics or of the natural sciences do not 
become invalid, hut they arc no longer sufficient. Social phe- 
nomena are subject to the same rules as physical phenomena, 
yet they are of a different and much more complicated char- 
acter. They are not to be described merely in terms of physics, 
chemistry, and biology. “In all social phenomena,” says 
Comte, "we perceive the working of the physiological laws of 
the individual; and moreover something which modifies their 
effects, and which belongs to the influence of individuals over 
teach other— singularly complicated in the case of the human 
race by the influence of generations on their successors. Thus 
it is clear that our social science must issue from that which 
relates to the life of the individual On the other hand, there 
is no occasion to suppose, as some eminent physiologists have 
done, that Social Physics is only an appendage to Physiology. 
JThe phenomena of the two are not identical, though they are 
homogeneous; and it is of high importance to hold the two 
sciences separate. As social conditions modify the operation of 
physiological laws, Social Physics must have a set of ofiserva- 
tions of its own.” s 

The disciples and followers of Comte were not, however, 
inclined to accept this distinction. They denied the difference 


1, Comte, Lettrcs h VaJat, p. 89; cited from L. L6vy-Bruh], La phi- 
losophic d'Auguste Comte. For further details see L£vy-Bruhl, op. cit 
English trans., The Philosophy 0/ Comte (New York and London, 
1903), pp. 247 ff. 

2. Comte, Cours de philosophic positive. English trans. by Harriet 
/Martineuu, Positive Philosophy (New York, 1855), Intro., chap, ii, 

45 1 - 


between physiology and sociology because they feared that 
acknowledging it would lead back to a metaphysical dualism. 
Theii ambition was to establish a purely naturalistic theory of 
the social and cultural world. To this end they found it neces- 
sary to negate and destroy all those barriers which seem to 
separate the human from the animal world. The theory of 
evolution had evidently effaced all these differences. Even be- 
fore Darwin the progress of natural history had frustrated all 
attempts at such differentiation. In the earlier stages of empir- . 
real observation it was still possible for the scientist to cherish* 
the hope of finding eventually an anatomical character re- 
served far man. As late as the eighteenth century it was still 
a generally accepted theory that there is a marked difference, 
in some respects a sharp contrast, between tire anatomical* 
structure of man and that of the other animals. It was one of, 
Goethe's great merits in the field of comparative anatomy 
that he vigorously combated this theory. The same homogene-, 
ity, not merely in the anatomical and physiological but also in 
the mental structure of man, remained to be demonstrated. 
For this purpose all the attacks on the older way of thinking 
had to be concentrated upon one point. The thing to be proved 
was that what we call the intelligence of man is by no means 
a self-dependent, original faculty. Proponents of the natural- 
istic theories could appeal for proof to the principles of psy- 
chology established by the older schools of sensationalism, 
Taine developed the psychological basis for his general theory, 
of human culture in a work on the intelligence of man. 5 Ac- 
cording to Taine, what we call “intelligent behavior” is not a 
special principle or privilege of human nature; it is only a 
more refined and complicated play of the same associative 
mechanism and automatism which we find in all animal re- 
actions. If we accept this explanation the difference between 
intelligence and instinct becomes negligible; it is a mere diF 
ference of degree, not of quality. Intelligence itself becomes t 
useless and scientifically meaningless term. 

The most surprising and paradoxical feature of the theorid 
of this type is the striking contrast between what they promise 

;. De fintelligence (Paris, 1870). 2 vols. 


and what they actually give us. The thinkers who huilt up 
|hese theories were very severe with respect to their method- 
ological principles. They were not content to speak of human 
nature in terms of our common experience, for they were 
(striving after a much higher ideal, an ideal of absolute 
scientific exactness. But if we compare their results with this 
standard we cannot help being greatly disappointed. “In- 
stinct” is a very vague term. It may have a certain descriptive 
value but it has obviously no explanatory value. By reducing 
-some classes of organic or human phenomena to certain fun- 
damental instincts, we have not alleged a new cause; we have 
only introduced a new name. Wc have put a question, not 
answered one. The term "instinct" gives us at best an idem 
-pet idem, and in most cases it is an obscurum per obscurius. 
Even in the description of animal behavior most modem bi- 
ologists and psycho-biologists have become very cautious about 
using it. They warn us against the fallacies which appear to 
be inextricably connected with it. They try rather to avoid 
or to abandon "the error-freighted concept of instinct and 
the oversimple concept of intelligence." In one of his most 
recent publications Robert M. Yerkes declares that the terms 
“instinct” and “intelligence” ate outmoded and that the con- 
cepts for which they stand are sadly in need of redefining . 4 
But in the field of anthropological philosophy we are still, 
apparently, far from any such redefinition. Here these terms 
are very often accepted quite naively without critical analysis. 
When used in this way the concept of instinct becomes an 
example of that typical methodological error which was de- 
scribed by William James as the psychologist's fallacy, The 
word "instinct," which may be useful for the description of 
animal or human behavior, is hypostatized into a sort of natu- 
ral power. Curiously enough this error was often committed 
’‘by thinkers who, in all other respects, felt secure against re- 
lapses into scholastic realism or “faculty-psychology.” A very 
clear and impressive criticism of this mode of thinking is 
contained in John Dewey’s Human Nature and Conduct. "It 

is unscientific," writes Dewey, “to by to restrict original ac- 


4. Chimpanzees, p. 110. 

9 1 

tivities to a definite number of sharply demarcated classes of 
instincts, And the practical result of this attempt is injurious. * 
To classify is, indeed, as useful as it is natural. The indefinite 
multitude of particular and changing events is met by the 
mind with acts of defining, inventorying, and listing, reducing 
to common heads and tying up in bunches. . , . But when 
wc assume that our lists and bunches represent fixed separa- 
tions and collections in rerum mtura, we obstruct rather than 
aid our transactions with things. We are guilty of a presump- 
tion which nature promptly punishes. We are rendered incom - 1 
petent to deal effectively with the delicacies and novelties of 
nature and life. . . . The tendency to forget the office of dis- 
tinctions and classifications, and to take them as marking 
tilings in themselves is the current fallacy of scientific special-t 
ism. . . . This attitude which once flourished in physical 
science now governs theorizing about human nature, Man has 
been resolved into a definite collection of primary instincts 
which may be numbered, catalogued and exhaustively de- 
scribed one by one, Theorists differ only or chiefly as to their 
number and ranking. Some say one, self-love; some two,'? 
egoism and altruism; some three, greed, fear and glory; while 
today writers of a more empirical turn run the number up to 
fifty and sixty. But in fact there are as many specific reactions 
to differing stimulating conditions as there is time for, and 
our lists are only classifications for a purpose ." 5 

After this brief survey of the different methods that have, 
hitherto been employed in answering the question: What if 
man? we now come to oui central issue. Are these methods 
sufficient and exhaustive? Or is there still another approach to 
an anthropological philosophy? Is any other way left open 
besidcs-that of psychological introspection, biological obser- 
vation and experiment, and of historical investigation? I have= 
endeavored to discover such an alternative approach in myj 
Philosophy of Symbolic Forms . 6 The method of this work' 

;. John, Dewey, Human Nature and Conduct (New York, Holt & 
Co., 1922), Pt. II, sec. 5, p. 131. 

6. Philosophic der symbolisciien Forinen, Vol, I, Die Sprache 
(1923); Vol. II, Das mythische Denken (192;); Vol. Ill, Phae-.- 
nomenologic der Erkenntnis (1929). 


is by no means a radical innovation. It is not designed to 
abrogate but to complement former views. The philosophy 
of symbolic forms starts from the presupposition that, if there 
is any definition of the nature or “essence” of man, this defi- 
nition can only be understood as a functional one, not a sub- 
stantial one. We cannot define man by any inherent principle 
which constitutes his metaphysical essence-nor can we define 
him by any inborn faculty ot instinct that may be ascertained 
by empirical observation. Man’s outstanding characteristic, his 
distinguishing mark, is not his metaphysical or physical na- 
ture-but his work. It is this work, it is the system of human 
activities, which defines and determines the circle of “human- 
ity.” Language, myth, religion, art, science, history are the 
^-constituents, the various sectors of this circle. A “philosophy 
of man" would therefore be a philosophy which would give us 
insight into the fundamental structure ol each of these hu- 
man activities, and which at the same time would enable us to 
understand them as an organic whole. Language, art, myth, 
religion are no isolated, random creations. They are held to- 
gether by a common bond. But this bond is not a vinculum 
substantiate, as it was conceived and described in scholastic 
thought; it is rather a vinculum functionate. It is the basic 
function of speech, of myth, of art, of religion that we must 
seek far behind their innumerable shapes and utterances, and 
that in the last analysis we must attempt to trace back to a 
common origin, 

' It is obvious that in the performance of this task we cannot 
neglect any possible source of information. We must examine 
all the available empirical evidence, and utilize alt tire 
methods of introspection, biological observation, and historical 
inquiry. These older methods are not to be eliminated but 
refened to a new intellectual center, and hence seen from a 
new angle, In describing the structure of language, myth, re- 
ligion, art, and science, we feel the constant need of a psycho- 
logical terminology. We speak of religious "feeling,” of artistic 
or mythical "imagination, 1 ' of logical or rational thought. And 
we cannot enter into all these worlds without a sound scientific 
psychological method. Child psychology gives us valuable clues 
' for the study of tire general development of human speech. 


Even more valuable seems to be the help we get from the 
study of general sociology. We cannot understand the forip 
of primitive mythical thought without taking into considera- 
tion the forms of primitive society, And more urgent still is 
the use of historical methods. The question as to what lan- 
guage, myth, and religion “are" cannot be answered without 
a penetrating study of their historical development. 

But even if it were possible to answer all these psychologi- 
cal, sociological, and historical questions, we should still be 
in the precincts of the properly “human" world; we should* 
not have passed its threshold. All human works arise under 
particular historical and sociological conditions. But we could 
never understand these special conditions unless we were able 
to grasp the general structural principles underlying these 
works. In our study of language, art, and myth the problem,; 
of meaning takes precedence over the problem of historical 1 , 
development. And here too we can ascertain a slow and con-, 
tinuous change in the methodological concepts and ideals of 
empirical science. In linguistics, for instance, the conception! 
that the history of language covers the whole field of linguistic! 
studies was for a long time an accepted dogma. This dogmg, 
left its mark upon the whole development of linguistics during;! 
the nineteenth century. Nowadays, however, this one-sidedt 
ness appears to have been definitely overcome. | 

The necessity of independent methods of descriptive analy* 
sis is generally recognized. 7 We cannot hope to measure the; 
depth of a special branch of human culture unless sudtt! 
measurement is preceded by a descriptive analysis. This'S 
structural view of culture must precede the merely historical 
view. History itself would be lost in the boundless mass of! 
disconnected facts if it did not have a general structur'd; 
scheme by means of which it can classify, order, and organize 
these facts. In the field of the history of art such a schcmj| 
was developed, for instance, by Heinrich Wfllfflin. As Wolfflhf 
insists, the historian of art would be unable to characterize! 
the art of different epochs or of different individual artists if 

7, For a fuller discussion of tire problem see Chap. 8, pp, 1$;- 
158. 4 

he were not in possession of some fundamental categories of 



artistic description. He finds these categories by studying and 
analyzing the different modes and possibilities of artistic ex- 
pression, These possibilities are not unlimited; as a matter of 
fact they may be reduced to a small number. It was from this 
point of view that Wolfflin gave his famous description of 
classic and baroque. Here the terms "classic" and “baroque” 
were not used as names for definite historical phases. They 
were intended to designate some general structural patterns 
not restricted to a particular age. "It is not the art of 
.the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries,’’ says Wolfflin at 
the end of his Principles of Art History, “which was to be 
analyzed-only the schema and the visual and creative possi- 
bilities within which art remained in both cases. To illustrate 
this, we could naturally only proceed by referring to the in- 
dividual work of art, but everything which was said of Raphael 
and Titian, of Rembrandt and Velasquez, was only intended 
to elucidate the general course of things. . . . Everything is 
transition and it is hard to answer the man who regards history 
as an endless flow. For us, intellectual self-preservation de- 
mands that we should classify the infinity of events with ref- 
erence to a few results.’’ 8 

If the linguist and the historian of art require fundamental 
structural categories for their “intellectual self-preservation,” 
such categories are even more necessary to a philosophical 
description of human civilization. Philosophy cannot be con- 
tent with analyzing the individual forms of human culture, 
■dt seeks a universal synthetic view which includes all individual 
forms. But is not such an all-embracing view an impossible 
task, a mere chimera? In human experience we by no |neans 
find the various activities which constitute the world of cul- 
ture existing in harmony. On the contrary, we find the per- 
petual strife of diverse conflicting forces. Scientific thought 
contradicts and suppresses mythical thought, Religion in its 
"highest theoretical and ethical development is under the ne- 
cessity of defending the purity of its own ideal against the 
extravagant fancies of myth or art. Thus the unity and har- 
mony of human culture appear to be little more than a pitmt 

8. Wolfflin, Kunstgescliichtliche Grumfbcgriffe. English tans, by 
M. D. Hottinger (London, G. Beil & Sons, 1932), pp. 226 f. 

9 6 

desiderium - a pious fraud-which is constantly frustrated by 
the real course of events. 

But here we must make a sharp distinction between a ma-J 
tetial and a formal point of view. Undoubtedly human culture 
is divided into various activities proceeding along different 
lines and pursuing different ends. If we content ourselves With 
contemplating the results of these activities— the creations of 
myth, religious rites or creeds, works of art, scientific theories- 
it seems impossible to reduce them to a common denominator. 
But a philosophic synthesis means something different. Here 
we seek not a unity of effects but a unity of action; not a unity 
of products but a unity of the creative process. If the term 
“humanity" means anything at all it means that, in spite of 
all the differences and oppositions existing among its various 
forms, these are, nevertheless, all working toward a common' 
end. In the long run there must be found an outstanding 
feature, a universal character, in which they all agree and har- 
monize. If we can determine this character the divergent rays 
may be assembled and brought into a focus of thought. As has 
been pointed out, such an organization of the facts of human 
culture is already getting under way in the particular sciences- 
in linguistics, in the comparative study of myth and religion, 
in the history of art. All of these sciences are striving for certain 
principles, for definite “categories,” by virtue of which to 
bring the phenomena of religion, of art, of language into a 
systematic order. Were it not for this previous synthesis ef- 
fected by the sciences themselves philosophy would have nq 
starting point. Philosophy cannot, on the other hand, stop 
here, U must seek to achieve an even greater condensation and 
centralization. In the boundless multiplicity and variety of 
mythical images, of religious dogmas, of linguistic forms, of 
works o} art, philosophic drought teveals the unity of a general 
function by which all these creations are held together. Myth, 
religion, art, language, even science, arc now looked upon as so 
many variations on a common theme-and it is the task of 
philosophy to make this theme audible and understandable, 

Myth and Religion 

m-' 1 

Of all the phenomena of human culture myth and religion 
are most refractory to a merely logical analysis. Myth appears 
at first sight to be a mere chaos-a shapeless mass of 
incoherent ideas. To seek after the "reasons" of these ideas 
seems to be vain and futile. If there is anything that is charac- 
teristic of myth it is the fact that it is “without rhyme and 
reason,” As to religious thought, it ts by no means necessarily 
opposed to rational or philosophic thought. To determine the 
true relation between these two modes of thought was one of 
t the principal tasks of medieval philosophy, In the systems of 
high scholasticism the problem appeared to be solved, Ac- 
cording to Thomas Aquinas religious truth is supra-natural 
and supra-rational; but it is not “irrational." By reason alone 
we cannot penetrate into the mysteries of faith. Yet these 
mysteries do not contradict, they complete and perfect reason, 
r Nevertheless there were always deep religious thinkers who 
took issue with all these attempts to reconcile the two opposite 
forces. They maintained a much more radical and uncom- 
promising thesis. Tertullian’s dictum Credo quia abmdum 
never lost its force. Pascal declared obscurity and incompre- 
hensibility to be the very elements of religion. The true God, 
the God of Christian religion, always remains a Deus 
* abscondilus , a hidden God. 1 Kierkegaard describes religious 
life as the great “paradox.” To him an attempt to lessen this 
paradox meant the negation and destruction of religious life, 
And religion remains a riddle not only in a theoretical but 
also in an ethical sense. It is fraught with theoretical antino- 
mies and with ethical contradictions. It promises us a com- 
^muiiion with nature, with men, with supra-natural powers and 
the gods themselves, Yet its effect is the very opposife. In its 
concrete appearance it becomes the source of the most pro- 
found dissensions and fanatic struggles among men. Religion 
claims to be in possession of an absolute truth; but its history 

j. See above, Chap. 1, p. 29. 


is a history of errors and heresies. It gives us the promise and 
prospect of a transcendent world— far beyond the limits of our 
human experience-and it remains human, all too human. 

The problem appears however m a new perspective as soon 
as we decide to change our point of view. A philosophy of 
human culture does not ask the same question as a meta- 
physical or theological system. Here we are not inquiring into 
the subject matter hut into the form of mythical imagination 
and religious thought. The subjects, the themes, and motives 
of mythical thought aie unmeasurable. If we approach the 
mythical world from this side it always remains-to use Mil- 
ton’s words- 

a dark illimitable ocean, 

without hound, without dimension, where length, 
breadth and height. 

And Time and place are lost. 

There is no natural phenomenon and no phenomenon of hu- 
man life that is not capable of a mythical interpretation, and 
which does not call for such an interpretation. All the at-j 
tempts of the various schools of comparative mythology to 
unify the mythological ideas, to reduce them to a certain uni- 
form type were bound to end in complete failure. Yet not- 
withstanding this variety and discrepancy of the mythologi- 
cal productions the myth-making function does not lack a real 
homogeneity. Anthropologists and ethnologists were often very 
much surprised to find the same elementary thoughts spread' 
over the whole world and under quite different social and cul- 
tural conditions. The same holds good for the history of reli- 
gion. The articles of faith, the dogmatic creeds, the theological 
system^ are engaged in an interminable struggle. Even the 
ethical ideals of different religions are widely divergent and 
scarcely reconcilable with each other. Yet all this does not 
affect the specific form of religious feeling and the inner unity 
of religious thought. 2 The religious symbols change in- 
cessantly, but the underlying principle, the symbolic activity 

a. An excellent description of this inner unity has been given in the 
work of Archibald Allan Bowman, Studies in the Philosophy of Reli- 
gion (London, 1938), a vols. 



as such, remains the same: una est religio in rituum varietate. 
j A theory of myth is, however, from the beginning laden 
,vith difficulties. Myth is nontbcoretical in its very meaning 
and essence. It defies and challenges our fundamental cate- 
gories of thought. Its logic-if there is any logic — is incom- 
mensurate with all our conceptions of empirical or scientific 
truth. But philosophy could never admit such a bifurcation. 
It was convinced that the creations of the myth-making func- 
tion must have a philosophical, an understandable '‘meaning." 
■If myth hides this meaning tinder all sorts of images and sym- 
bols, it became the task of philosophy to unmask it, Since 
the time of the Stoics philosophy has developed a special, very 
elaborate technique of allegorical interpretation. For many 
senturies this technique was regarded as the only possible 
■access to the mythical world. It prevailed throughout the Mid- 
dle Ages, and it was still in full vigor at the beginning of our 
modern era. Bacon wrote a special treatise cn the "Wisdom of 
the Ancients” in which lie displayed a great sagacity in the 
interpretation of ancient mythology. 

If we study this treatise we are inclined to smile at these 
allegorical interpretations that to a modem reader in most 
cases seem to be extremely naive. Nevertheless oui own much 
more refined and sophisticated methods are to a large degree 
liable to the same objection. Their “explanation” of the myth- 
ical phenomena becomes in the end an entire negation of these 
phenomena, The mythical world appears as an artificial 
rfcrld, as a pretense for something else. Instead of being a 
belief, it is a mere make-believe. What distinguishes these 
modern methods from the earlier forms of allegorical Inter- 
pretation is the fact that they no longer regard myth as a mere 
invention made for a special purpose, Though myth is ficti- 
tious, it is an unconscious, not a conscious fiction. The primi- 
tive mind was not aware of the meaning of its own creations. 
But it is for us, it is for our scientific analysis, to reveal this 
meaning-to detect the true face behind these innumerable 
masks. This analysis may proceed in a double direction. It 
may apply an objective or subjective method. In the former 
.case it will try to classify the objects of mythical thought; in 
.Ike latter it will try to classify its motives. A theoiy seems to 


be so much the more perfect the farther it goes in this process 
of simplification. If in the end it should succeed in discovering 
one single object or one simple motive that contains and conn" 
prises all the others, it would have attained its aim and 
fulfilled its task. Modem ethnology and modern psychology 
have attempted both these ways. Many ethnological and an- 
thropological schools started from the presupposition that 
first and foremost we have to seek an objective center of the 
mythical world. "To writers of this school," says Malinowski,'* 
“every myth possesses as its kernel or ultimate reality some„ 
natural phenomenon or other, elaborately woven into a tale 
to an extent which sometimes almost masks and obliterates 
it. There is not much agreement among these students as to 
what type of natural phenomenon lies at the bottom of most, 
mythological productions. There are extreme lunar inytholcv 
gists so completely moonstruck with their idea that they will 
not admit that any other phenomenon could lend itself to 
a savage rhapsodic interpretation except that of earth’s noc- 
turnal satellite. . . . Others . . . regard the sun as the only 
subject around which primitive man has spun his symbol?, 
tales. Then there is the school of meteorological interpreters 1 
who regard wind, weather, and colors of the skies as the 
essence of myth. . . . Some of these departmental mytholo- 
gists fight fiercely for their heavenly body or principle; others 
have a more catholic taste, and prepare to agree that primeval 
man has made his mythological brew from all the heavenly 
bodies taken together .” 8 In Freud’s psychoanalytic theory pfy 
myth, oil the other hand, all its productions were declared td 
be variations and disguises of one and the same psychological 
theme-sexuality. Wc need not enter here into the details of 
all these theories. However divergent in their contents all of 
them show us the same methodological attitude. They hope 
to make us understand the mythical world by a process of 
intellectual reduction. But none of them can reach its goht, 
without constantly pressing and stretching the facts for the' 
sake ef rendering the theory a homogeneous whole. 

Myth combines a theoretical element and an element oi 

3. Malinowski, Myth in Primitive Psychology (New York, Norton^ 
ipafi), pp. 11 f. 



artistic creation. Wliat first strikes us is its close kinship with 
gjoetay. “Ancient myth," it has been said, “is the ‘mass’ from 
which modern poetry has slowly grown by the processes which 
evolutionists call differentiation and specialization. The myth- 
maker’s mind is the prototype; and the mind of the poet , . . 
is still essentially mythopoeic.” 4 But in spite of this genetic 
connection we cannot fail to recognize the specific difference 
between myth and art. A clue to this is to be found in Kant's 
’statement that aesthetic contemplation is “entirely indifferent 
-to the existence or nonexistence of its object.” Precisely such 
an indifference, however, is entirely alien to mythical imagina- 
tion. In mythical imagination there is always implied an act 
of belief. Without the belief in the reality of its object, myth 
yould lose its ground. By this intrinsic and necessary condition 
we seem to be led on to the opposite pole. In this respect it 
seems to he possible and even indispensable to compare myth- 
ical with scientific thought. Of course they do not follow the 
same ways. But they seem to be in quest of tire same thing: 
reality. In modern anthropology this relationship was cmph3- 
jfized by Sir James Frazer. Frazer propounds the thesis that 
there is no sharp boundary separating magical art from our 
modes of scientific thought. Magic, too, however imaginary 
and fantastic in its means, is scientific in its aim, Theoretically 
speaking, magic is science, although practically speaking it is 
an elusive science-a pseudo science. For even magic argues 
jSJjd acts upon the presupposition that in nature one event 
follows another necessarily and invariably without the inter- 
vention of any spiritual or personal agency. The convi«tion 
here is "that the course of nature is determined not by the 
passions or caprice of personal beings, but by the operation of 
immutable laws acting mechanically." Hence magic is a faith, 
implicit, but real and firm in the order and uniformity of 
, nature.® This thesis could not, however, stand a critical test; 
modem anthropology seems entirely to have given up the views 

4. F. C. Prescott, Poetry and Myth (New York, Macmillan, 1927), 
p. 10. 

K. Sec Frazer, The Magic Ait and the Evolution of Kings, Vol. I of 
The Golden Bough (2d ed. Macmillan, 1900), pp. 61 If., 120 ff, 


of Frazer." It is now generally admitted that it is a very in- 
adequate conception of myth and magic to look upon them as 
typically aetiological or explanatory. We cannot reduce myth 
to certain fixed static elements; we must strive to grasp it in 
its inner life, in its mobility and versatility, in its dynamic 

It is easier to describe this principle if we approach the 
problem from a different angle. Myth has, as it were, a double 
face, On the one hand it shows us a conceptual, on the other 
hand a perceptual structure. It is not a mere mass of un, 
organized and confused ideas; it depends upon a definite mode 
of perception. If myth did not perceive the world in a different 
way it could not judge or interpret it in its specific manner. We 
must go back to this deeper stratum of perception in orda 
to understand the character of mythical thought. What iff 
terests us in empirical thought are the constant features of 
our sense experience. Here we always make a distinction be- 
tween what is substantial or accidental, necessary or contin- 
gent, invariable or transient. By this discrimination wc are led 
on to the concept of a world of physical objects endowed witlj 
fixed and determinate qualities. But all this involves an ana- 
lytical process that is opposed to the fundamental structure 
of mythical perception and thought. The mythical world is, 
as it were, at a much more fluid and fluctuating stage than 
our theoretical world of things and properties, of substances 
and accidents. In order to grasp and to describe this difference 
we may say that what myth primarily perceives arc not ob- 
jective hut physiognomic characters. Nature, in its empiric^ 
or sfrentific sense, may be defined as “the existence of things 
as far as it is determined by general laws.” 7 Such a “nature 1 
does -not exist for myths. The world of myth is a dramatit 
world-a world of actions, of forces, of conflicting powers. la 
every phenomenon of nature it sees the collision of thest 
powers. Mythical perception is always impregnated with tbes| 
emotional qualities, Whatever is seen or felt is surrounded by 
a special atmosphere-an atmosphere of joy or grief, of an- 

6. For a criticism of Frazer's thesis see R. R. Marett, The Threshold 
of Religion (2d ed. London, Methuen, 3914), pp, 4-7 if., 177 ft. 

7. Cf. Kant, Prolegomena to Eyeiy Future Metaphysics, sec. 14. 



guisli, of excitement, of exultation or depression. Here we 
.pannot speak of "things” as a dead or indifferent stuff. All 
objects are benignant or malignant, friendly or mimical, famil- 
iar or uncanny, alluring and fascinating or repellent and 
threatening. We can easily reconstruct this elementary form 
of human experience, for even in the life of the civilized man 
it has by no means lost its original power. If we are under the 
strain of a violent emotion we have still this dramatic concep- 
tion of all things. They no longer wear their usual faces; they 
abruptly change their physiognomy; they are tinged with the 
specific color of our passions, of love or hate, of fear 01 hope. 
There can scarcely he a greater contrast than between this 
original direction of onr experience and the ideal of truth that 
is introduced by science. All the efforts of scientific thought 
are directed to the aim of obliterating every trace of this first 
view. In the new light of science mythical perception has to 
fade away. But that does not mean that the data of our physi- 
ognomic experience as such are destroyed and annihilated. 
They have lost all objective or cosmological value, but their 
Anthropological value persists. In our human world we cannot 
deny them and we cannot miss them; they maintain their 
place and their significance. In social life, in our daily inter- 
course with men, we cannot efface these data. Even in the 
genetic order the distinction between physiognomic qualities 
seems to precede the distinction between perceptual qualities. 
A child seems to be sensitive to them in the first stages of his 
^fevelopment . 6 While science has to abstract from these quali- 
ties in order to fulfil its task, it cannot completely suppress 
them. They are not extirpated root and branch; they are“only 
restricted to their own field. It is this restriction of the sub- 
jective qualities that marks the general way of science. 
Science delimits their objectivity but it cannot completely 
destroy their reality. For every feature of our human 
t experience has a claim to reality. In our scientific con- 
cepts we reduce the difference between two colors, let 
us say red and blue, to a numeric difference. Bht it 
is a very inadequate way of speaking if we declare num- 

t 6. With regard to this problem see Cassirer, Philosophic der sym- 
holischen Formen, Vol. Ill, Pt. I, chap3. ii and iii. 


bar to be more real than color. What is really meant is that 
it is more general. The mathematical expression gives us, 
a new and more comprehensive view, a freer and larger 
horizon of knowledge. But to hypostatize number as did the 
Pythagoreans, to speak of it as the ultimate reality, the very 
essence and substance of things, is a metaphysical fallacy. If 
we argue upon this methodological and epistemological prin- 
ciple even the lowest stratum of our sense experience~the_ 
stratum of out "feeling-qualities'-appears in a new light. Tire 
world of our sense perceptions, of the so-called '‘secondary 
qualities," is in an intermediate position. It has abandoned 
and overcome the first rudimentary stage of our physiognomic 
experience, without having reached that form of generalization 
that is attained in out scientific concepts-our concepts of the 
physical world. But all these three stages have their definift 
functional value. None of them is a mere illusion; every one is, 
in its measure, a step on our way to reality. 

The best and clearest statement of this problem has to my 
mind been given by John Dewey. He was one of the first to 
recognize and to emphasize the relative right of those feeling 
qualities which prove their full power in mythical perception 
and which are here regarded as the basic dements of reality. 
It was precisely his conception of the task of a genuine em- 
piricism that led him to this conclusion. “Empirically," says 
Dewey, "things are poignant, tragic, beautiful, humorous, 
settled, disturbed, comfortable, annoying, barren, harsh, con- 
soling, splendid, fearful; are such immediately and in thfij 
own right and behalf. . . . These traits stand in themselve; 
on precisely the same level as colors, sounds, qualities of con- 
tact, taste and smell. Any criterion that finds the latter to b( 
ultimate and ‘hard’ data will, impartially applied, come to the 
same conclusion about the former. Any quality as such is final; 
it is at once initial and terminal; just what it is as it exists. $ 
may be referred to other things, it may be treated as an effeS 
or as a sign. But this involves an extraneous extension and use. 
It takes ns beyond quality in its immediate qualitativeness. 

. . . The surrender of immediate qualities, sensory and signifi- 
cant, as objects of science, and as proper forms of classification 
and understanding, left in reality these immediate qualities 



just as they were; since they are hud there is no need to know 
Jhem. But ... the traditional view that the object of knowl- 
edge is reality par excellence led to the conclusion that the 
object of science was preeminently metaphysically real. Hence, 
immediate qualities, being extended from the object of 
science, were left thereby hanging loose from the ‘real’ object. 
Since their existence could not be denied, they were gathered 
together into a psychic realm of being, set over against the 
'‘object of physics. Given this premise, all the problems regard- 
ing the relation of mind and matter, the psychic and the 
bodily, necessarily follow. Change the metaphysical premise; 
restore, that is to say, immediate qualities to their rightful 
position as qualities of inclusive situations, and the problems 
jn question cease to be epistemological problems. They be- 
come specifiable scientific problems; questions, that is to say, 
of how such and such an event having such and such qualities 
actually occurs.” " 

Hence if we wish to account for the world of mythical per- 
ception and mythical imagination we must not begin with a 
Criticism of both of them from the point of view of our theo- 
retical ideals of knowledge and truth. We must take the 
qualities of mythical experience on their “immediate quali- 
tativeness.” For what we need here is not an explanation of 
mere thoughts or beliefs but an interpretation of mythical 
life. Myth is not a system of dogmatic creeds. It consists much 
more in actions than in mere images or representations. It is a 
*%ark of definite progress in modern anthropology and modern 
history of religion that this view has become more and wore 
prevalent. That ritual is prior to dogma, both in a historical 
and in a psychological sense, seems now to he a generally 
adopted maxim. Even if we should succeed in analyzing myth 
into ultimate conceptual elements, we could, by such an ana- 
lytical process, never grasp its vital principle, which is a dy- 
' namic not a static one; it is describable only in terms of action, 
Primitive man expresses his feelings and emotions not in "mere 
abstract symbols but in a concrete and immediate way; and 

Experience and Nature (Chicago, Open Court Publishing Co., 
1925), pp. 96, 264 f. 


we must study the whole of this expression in order to become 
aware of the structure of myth and primitive religion. ^ 

One of the clearest and most consistent theories of this 
structure has been given by the French sociological school, in 
the work of Durkheim and his disciples and followers. 
Durkheim starts from the principle that we can give no ade- 
quate account of myth as long as we seek its sources in the 
physical world, in an intuition of natural phenomena. Not 
nature but society is the true model of myth. All its funda" 
mental motives are projections of man’s social life. By these, 
projections nature becomes the image of the social world; it 
reflects all its fundamental features, its organization and 
architecture, its divisions and subdivisions . 10 The thesis of 
Durkheim has come to its full development in the work . 
Ldvy-Bruhl. But here we meet with a more general cha£ 
acteristic. Mythical thought is described as “prelogicel 
thought .* If it asks for causes, these are neither logical nor 
empirical; they are “mystic causes." “Our daily activity im- 
plies unruffled, perfect confidence in the invariability of 
natural laws. The attitude of primitive man is very different 
To him the nature amid which he lives presents itself under 
an entirely different aspect. All things and all creatures therein 
sue involved in a network of mystic participations and ex- 
clusions," According to Ldvy-Bruhl this mystic character of 
primitive religion follows from the very fact that its repre- 
sentations are “collective representations." To these wc 
cannot apply the rules of our own logic that are intended* 
for tjuite different purposes. If we approach this field, eves 
the law of contradiction, and all the other laws of rational 
thought, become invalid . 11 To my mind the French sociolog 
ical School has given full and conclusive proof of the firs! 

10. Cf. Durkheim, Les formes dKmentaires de la vie religieuse (Park 
191a); English trans., Elementary Forms of the Religions Life (Nq* 
York, 191;), 

11. Cf. Levy-firulil, Les fonctions menfales dans les socidtds in- 
fdrieures (Paris, 1910) ; English tans., How Natives Think (London 
and New York, 1926); La men third primitive (Paris, 192s); En^ltt 
turns.. Primitive Mentality (New York, 1923); L’Ame prinutije 
(Paris, 19218); English trans., The “ SovV ' of the Primitive (Nija 
York, 1928). 



part of its thesis but not of the second part. The fun- 
damental social character of myth is uncontroverted. But 
that all primitive mentality necessarily is prelogical or 
mystical seems to be in contradiction with our anthropological 
and ethnological evidence. We find many spheres of primitive 
life and culture that show the well-known features of our own 
cultural life. As long as we assume an absolute heterogeneity 
between our own logic and that of the primitive mind, as long 
’as we think them specifically different from and radically 
opposed to each other, we can scarcely account for this fact. 
Even in primitive life we always find a secular or profane 
sphere outside the holy sphere. There is a secular tradition 
that consists of customary or legal rules, determining the 
.manner in which social life is conducted. "The rules which we 
Snd here,” says Malinowski, “are completely independent of 
magic, of supernatural sanctions, and they aie never accom- 
panied by any ceremonial or ritual elements. It is a mistake to 
assume that, at an early stage of development, man lived in a 
contused world, where the real and the unreal formed a med- 
ley, where mysticism and reason were as interchangeable as 
forged and real coin in a disorganized country. To us the most 
essential point about magic and religious ritual is that it steps 
in only where knowledge fails. Supernaturally founded cere- 
monial grows out of life, but it never stultifies the practical 
efforts of man, In his ritual of magic or religion, man attempts 
to enact miracles, not because he ignores the limitations of bis 
^mental powers, but, on the contrary, because he is fully 
cognizant of them. To go one step farther, the recognition of 
this seems to me indispensable if we want once and for ever to 
establish the truth that religion has its own subject-matter, its 
own legitimate field of development.” 12 ’ 

And even in the latter field, in the legitimate field of myth 
-find religion, the conception of nature and of human life is 
. by no means devoid of any rational meaning. What we, from 
our own point of view, may call irrational, prelogical, mysti- 
cal, are the premises from which mythical or religious 'inter- 

12. Malinowski, The Foundations of Faith and Morals (London, 
Oxford University Press, 1936; published for tire University of Dur- 
ham), p. 34. 


prelation starts, but not the mode of interpretation. If 
we accept these premises and if we understand them aright— 
if we see them in the same light that primitive man docs-the 
inferences drawn from them cease to appear illogical or 
antilogical. To be sure all attempts to intellectualize rnyth- 
to explain it as an allegorical expression of a theoretical or 
moral truth-have completely failed. 13 They ignored the 
fundamental facts of mythical experience. The real substra- 
tum of myth is no 1 a substratum of thought but of feeling. 
Myth and primitive religion are by no means entirely inco- 
herent, they arc not bereft of sense or reason. But their 
coherence depends much more upon unity of feeling than 
upon logical rules. This unity is one of the strongest and most 
profound impulses of primitive thought. If scientific thought 
wishes to describe and explain reality it is bound to use its' 
general method, which is that of classification and systematiza- 
tion. Life is divided into separate provinces that are sharply 
distinguished from each other. The boundaries between the 
kingdoms of plants, of animals, of man-the differences be- 
tween species, families, genera-are fundamental and iucffaceij 
able. But the primitive mind ignores and rejects them all. Its 
view of life is a synthetic, not an analytical one. Life is not 
divided into classes and subclasses. It is felt as an unbroken 
continuous whole which does not admit of any clean-cut and 
trenchant distinctions. The limits between the different 
Spheres are not insurmountable barriers; they are fluent and 
fluctuating. There is no specific difference between the variolas' 
realms of life. Nothing has a definite, invariable, static shape, 
By a sudden metamorphosis everything may be turned into 
everything. If there is any characteristic and outstanding 
feature of the mythical world, any law by which it is governed 
-it is this law of metamorphosis. Even so wc can scarcely ex- 
plain the instability of the mythical world by the incapacits 
of primitive man to grasp the empirical differences of things' 
In this regard the savage very often proves his superiority to 
the civilized man. He is susceptible to many distinctive fea- 

13. Even in modern literature we still find many traces of this ia- 
tellectualistic tendency. See, for instance, F. Langer, Intellectual 
mythologie (Leipzig, 1916). 



tures that escape our attention. The animal drawings and 
paintings that we find in the lowest stages of human culture, 
in paleolithic art, have often been admired for their naturalis- 
tic character. They show an astounding knowledge of all sorts 
of animal forms. The whole existence of primitive man de- 
pends in great part upon his gifts of observation and dis- 
crimination. If he is a hunter he must be familiar with the 

smallest details of animal life; he must be able to distinguish 
' the traces of various animals. All this is scarcely in keeping 
. with the assumption that the primitive mind, by its very na- 
ture and essence, is undifferentiated or confused, a prelogical 
or mystical mind. 

What is characteristic of primitive mentality is not its logic 
.but its general sentiment of life. Primitive man does not look 
■*at nature with the eyes of a naturalist who wishes to classify 
things in order to satisfy an intellectual curiosity. He does not 
approach it with merely pragmatic or technical interest. It is 
for him neither a mere object of knowledge nor the field of 
his immediate practical needs. We are in the habit of dividing 
<onr life into the two spheres of practical and theoretical 
activity, In this division wc are prone to forget that there is a 
lower stratum beneath them both. Primitive man is not liable 

to such forgetfulness. All his thoughts and his feelings are 
still embedded in this lower original stratum, His view Of na- 
ture is neither merely theoretical nor merely practical; it is 
sympathetic. If we miss this point we cannot find the approach 
*'ko the mythical world. The most fundamental feature of myth 
'is not a special direction of thought or a special direction of 
human imagination. Myth is an offspring of emotion aid its 
emotional background imbues all its productions with its own 
specific color. Primitive man by no means lacks the ability to 
grasp the empirical differences of things. But in bis conception 
4 of nature and life all these differences are obliterated by a 
stronger feeling: the deep conviction of a fundamental and 
' indelible solidarity of life that bridges over the multiplicity 
and variety of its single forms. He does not ascribe to himself 
a unique and privileged place in the scale of nature. The con- 
sanguinity of all forms of life seems to be a general 
presupposition of mythical thought, Totemistic creeds are 


among the most characteristic features of primitive culture. 
The whole religious and social life of the most primitive tribes 
-as, for instance, those aboriginal Australian tribes that have 
been carefully studied and described by Spencer and Gil- 
lcn u -is governed by totemistic conceptions. And even in a 
much more advanced stage, in the religion of highly cultivated 
nations, we find a very complex and elaborate system of animal 
worship. In totemism man does not merely regard himself as 
a descendant of certain animal species. A bond that is present 
and actual as well as genetic connects his whole physical and 
social existence with his totemistic ancestors. In many cases 
this connection is felt and expressed as identity. The ethnolo- 
gist Karl van den Steinen relates that the members of certain 
totemistic clans of an Indian tribe asseited they were one wito 
the animals from which they derived their origin: they 
expressly declared themselves to fee aquatic animals or red 
parrots . 10 Frazer relates that among the Dieri tribe in Austra- 
lia the head man of a totem consisting of a particular sort of 
seed was spoken of by his people as being the plant itself which 
yields the seed. 1 * 

We see from these examples how the firm belief in the 
unity of life eclipses all those differences that, from our own 
point of view, seem to be unmistakable and ineffaceable. We 
need by no means assume that these differences are completely 
overlooked. They arc not denied in an empirical sense but 
they are declared to be irrelevant in a religious sense. To, ( 
mythical and religious feeling nature becomes one great sfij 
ciety A the society of life. Man is not endowed with outstanding' 
rank in this society. He is a part of it but he is in no respect 
higher than any other member. Life possesses the same reli- 
gious 'dignity in its humblest and in its highest forms. Men 
and animals, animals and plants are all on the same level. In 
totemistic societies we find totem-plants side by side with 

14. Sir Baldwin Spencer and F. J. Gillen, The Native Tribes of Cen- 
tal Australia, The Northern Tribes of Cental Australia. 

15. Cf, Karl von den Steinen, Unter dell Natmvblkem Zentral- 
Brasiliens (Berlin, 1897), p. 507. 

16. Frazer, Lectures on the Early History of Kingship (London^ 
Macmillan, 1905), p. 109. 



totem-animals. And we find the same principle — that of the 
^solidarity and unbroken unity of life— if we pass from space to 
time. It holds not only in the order of simultaneity but also 
in the order of succession. The generations of men form a 
unique and uninterrupted chain. The former stages of life 
arc preserved by reincarnation. The soul of the grandparent 
appears in a newborn child in a rejuvenated state. Present, 
past, and future blend into each other without any sharp line 
‘ of demarcation; the limits between the generations of man be- 
, came uncertain. 

The feeling of the indestructible unity of life is so strong 
and unshakable as to deny and to defy the fact of death. In 
primitive thought death is never regarded as a natural 
phenomenon that obeys general laws. Its occurrence is not 
“necessary but accidental. It always depends upon individual 
and fortuitous causes. It is the work of witchcraft or magic or 
some other personal inimical influence. In their description 
of the aboriginal tribes of Australia Spencer and Gillen point 
out that no such thing as natural death is ever realized by the 
mative. A man who dies has of necessity' been killed by some 
other man or perhaps even by a woman; and sooner or later 
that man or woman will be attacked. 1 ’ Death has not always 
been; it came into being by a particular event, by a failure of 
man or some accident. Many mythical tales are concerned 
with the origin of death. The conception that man is mortal, 
by his nature and essence, seems to be entirely alien to mythi- 
• cal and primitive religious thought. In this regard there is a 
striking difference between the mythical belief in immortality 
and all the later forms of a pure philosophical belief, If we 
read Plato's Phaeda we fee! the whole effort of philosophical 
thought to give clear and irrefutable proof of the immortality 
of the human soul. In mythical thought the case is quite 
different. Here the burden of proof always lies on the opposite 
side. If anything is in need of proof it is not the fact of im- 
mortality but the fact of death. And myth and primitive reli- 
gion never admit these proofs. They emphatically deny the 
very possibility of death. In a certain sense the whole of mythi- 

17. Spencer and Gillen, The Native Tribes of Central Austzalia, p, 48. 


cal thought may be interpreted as a constant and obstinate 
negation of the phenomenon of death. By virtue of this con- 
viction of the unbroken unity and continuity of life myth has 
to clear away this phenomenon. Primitive religion is perhaps 
the strongest and most energetic aflirmation of life that we 
find in human culture. In a description of the oldest Pyramid 
texts Breasted says that the chief and dominant note through- 
out is insistent, even passionate, protest against death. “They 
may be said to be the record of humanity's earliest supreme 
revolt against the great darkness and silence from which none 
returns. The word 'death' never occurs in the Pyramid Texts 
except in the negative or applied to a foe. Over and over again 
we hear the indomitable assurance that the dead lives ," 18 
In his individual and social feeling primitive man is filled 
with this assurance. The life of man has no definite limits irfr 
space or time. It extends over the whole realm of nature and 
over the whole of man's history. Herbert Spencer has pro- 
pounded the thesis that ancestor worship is to be regarded as 
the first source and the origin of religion. At any rate it is one 
of the most general religious motives. There seem to be few^ 
races in the world which do not practice, in one or another 
form, a sort of death cult. It is one of the highest religious 
duties of the survivor, after the death o £ a parent, to provide 
him with food and other necessaries needed to maintain him 
in the new state on which he has entered . 10 In many cases 
ancestor worship appears as the all-pervading trait that 
characterizes and determines the whole religious and socigt" 
life. In China this worship of the ancestors, sanctioned antf 
regulated by the state religion, is conceived to be the only 
religion that people may have. It signifies, says de Groot in 
his description of Chinese religion, “that the family ties with 
the dead are by no means broken, and that the dead continue 
to exercise their authority and protection. They are the natural 
patron divinities of the Chinese people, their household-godsf 

18. James Henry Breasted, Development of Religion and Thought 
in Ancient Egypt (New York, Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1912), p. 91, 

19. Rich ethnological material illustrating this point is to be found 
in the article on Ancestor-Worship in Hastings’ Encyclopedia of 
Religion and Ethics, 1 , 425 fi. 


n 3 

affording protection against specters, and thus creating fe- 
licity. ... It is ancestral worship which, hy bestowing on 
'man the protection of the deceased member of his family 
endows him with wealth and prosperity. Therefore his posses- 
sions actually are those of the dead; indeed these continue to 
dwell and live with him and the laws of paternal and patriar- 
chal authority will have it that parents are the owners of every- 
thing a child possesses . . . We have, then, to consider the 
■ worship of parents and ancestors as the very core of the reli- 
. gious and social life of the Chinese people ." 20 

China is the classical country of ancestor worship in which 
we can study all its fundamental features and all its special 
implications. Nevertheless the general religious motives that 
lie at the bottom of the cult of the ancestors do not depend 
'On particular cultural or social conditions. We find them in 
entirely different cultural environments. If we look at classical 
antiquity we meet with the same motives in Roman religion- 
and there, too, they have marked the whole character of Ro- 
man life. In his well-known book, La citi antique , Fustel de 
^Coulanges has given a description of Roman religion in which 
'he tries to show that the whole social and political life of the 
Romans hears the impress ot their worship of the Manes. The 
cult of the ancestors always remained one of the basic and 
prevalent characteristics of Roman religion . 31 On the other 
hand one ot the most marked features of the religion of the 
Americans Indians, shared by nearly all of the many tribes 
'■from Alaska to Patagonia, is their belief in life after death 
based upon tire equally general belief in communication be- 
tween mankind and the spirits of tire dead . 22 All this iSiows 
in a clear and unmistakable manner that we have here come to 
a really universal, an irreducible and essential characteristic 
of primitive religion. And it is impossible to understand this 
dement in its true sense so long as we start from the pre- 

‘ jo. jf. f. M. de Groot, The Religion of the Chinese (New York, 
Macmillan, 1910), pp. 67, 82. For further information see de Groot, 
The Religions System ot China (Leyden, 1892 ff.) , Volt. IV-VL 

21, Fustel de Coulanges, La citd antique; Wissowa, Religion tier 
JtSmer (1902), pp. 187 ff. 

22. Cf. Ancestor-Worship, in Hastings’ Encyclopedia, I, 433. 


supposition that all religion originates in fear. We must servfc 
for another and deeper source if we wish to understand the 
common band that unites the phenomenon of totemism with 
the phenomenon of ancestor worship. It is true that the Holy t 
the Sacred, the Divine, always contains an element of fear: it 
is, at the same time, a mysterium fascinosum and a mysterium 
tremendum , S3 But if wc follow our general device— if w e 
judge the mentality of primitive man by his actions as well 
by his representations or crecds-we find that these actions 
imply a different and stronger motive. From all sides and at 
every moment the life of primitive man is threatened by u n . 
known dangers. The old saying Primus in o rbe duos fecit tinier 
contains, therefore, an inner psychological verisimilitude. But 
it seems as if even in the earliest and lowest stages of civilisa- 
tion man had found a new force by which he could resist and 
hanisli the fear of death. What he opposed to the fact of death 
was his confidence in the solidarity, the unbroken and in- 
destructible unity of life. Even totemism expresses this deep 
conviction of a community of all living beings-a community 
that must be preserved and reinforced by the constant efforts 
of man, by the strict performance of magical rites and religious 
observances', ft is one of the great merits of W. Robertson- 
Smith’s book on the religion of the Semites that it emphasises 
this point. He was thus able to connect the phenomena of 
totemism with other phenomena of religious life that, at first 
sight, seem to be of quite a different type. Even the crudest 
and most cruel superstitions appear in a different light whe w 
looked at from this angle. "Some of the most notable anijf 
constant features of all ancient heathenism," says Robertson- 
Smith, “from the totemism of savages upwards, find their 
sufficient explanation in the physical kinship that unites t| le 
human and superhuman members of the same religious and 
social community. . . . The indissoluble bond that unites) 
men to their god is the same bond of blood-fellowship which 
in eaily society is the one binding link between man and man 
and the one sacred principle of moral obligation, And thus 
we see that even in its rudest forms religion was a moral forte, 

23. Cf. Rudolf Otto, DasHeilige (Gottingen, 191a). 


u 5 

. . . From the earliest times religion, as distinct from magic 
or sorcery, addresses itself to kindred and friendly beings, who 
may indeed be angry with their people for a time, but are 
always placable except to the enemies of their worshippers or 
to renegade members of the community. . . . Religion in 
this sense is not the child of terror, and the difference between 
it and the savage’s dread of unseen foes is as absolute and 
fundamental in the earliest as in the latest stages of develop- 

The funeral rites that we find in all parts of the world tend 
to the same point. Fear of death is undoubtedly one of the 
most general and most deeply rooted human instincts. The 
first reaction of man toward die dead body must have been to 
leave it to its fate and to fly from it in terror. But such a re- 
action is to be found only in a few exceptional cases. It is very 
soon superseded by the opposite attitude, by the wish to de- 
tain or to recall the spirit of the dead. Our ethnological ma- 
terial shows us the struggle between these two impulses. It is, 
however, the latter one that usually seems to get the upper 
hand. To be sure, we find many attempts to prevent the spirit 
of die dead from returning to its house. Ashes are strewed be- 
hind the coffin as it is being borne to the grave so that the 
ghost may miss the road. The custom of closing the eyes of a 
dead person has been explained as an attempt to blindfold the 
corpse and prevent it from seeing the way by which it is 
borne to its grave. 25 In most cases, however, the opposite 
- tendency prevails. With all their powers the survivors strive to 
detain the spirit in their neighborhood. Very often the corpse 
is buried in the house itself where it maintains its permanent 
dwelling place. The ghosts of the deceased become the house- 
hold gods; and the life and prosperity of the family, depend 
on their assistance and favor. At his death the parent is im- 
plored not to go away. "We ever loved and cherished you,” 
says a song quoted by Tylor, "and have lived long together 

34. W. Robertson-Smith, Lectures on the Religion of the Semites 
(Edinburgh, A. & C. Black, 1889), Lecture II, pp. 53 ff. Ct'. Lecture 
X, pp. 334 S. 

35. For the ethnological material see Sir Edward Burnett Tylor, 
Primitive Culture (New York, Henry Holt k Co., 1874), chap, xiv. 

under the same roof; Desert it not now! Come to your home! 
It is swept for you, and dean; and we are there who loved you 
ever; and there is rice put for you; and water; Come home, 
come home, come to us again.” 20 
There is no radical difference in this respect between mythi- 
cal and religious thought. Both of them originate in the same 
fundamental phenomena of human life. In the development 
of human culture we cannot fix a point where myth ends or 
religion begins. In the whole course of its history religion re- 
mains indissolubly connected and penetrated with mythical 
elements, On the other hand myth, even in its crudest and 
most rudimentary forms, contains some motives that in a sense 
anticipate the higher and later religious ideals. Myth is from 
its very beginning potential religion. What leads from one 
stage to the other is no sudden crisis of thought and no revolu- 
tion of feeling. In Lej deux sources de la morale et de la religion 
Henri Bergson tries to convince us that there is an irreconcil- 
able apposition between what he describes as "Static Religion” 
and “Dynamic Religion." The former is a product of social 
pressure; the latter is based on freedom. In dynamic religion 
we yield not to a pressure but to an altraction-and by this 
attraction we break all the former social bonds of a static, 
conventional, and traditional morality. We do not conic to 
the highest form of religion, to a religion of humanity, by de- 
grees, through the stages of the family and the nation. “We 
must,” says Bergson, “in a single bound, be carried far beyond 
it, and without having made it our goal, reach it by outstrip- 
ping it. . . . Whether we speak the language of religion or the 
language of philosophy, whether it be a question of love or 
respect, a different morality, another kind of obligation su- 
pervenes, above and beyond the social pressure. . . . Whereas 
natural obligation is a pressure or propulsive force, complete 
and perfect morality has the effect of an appeal ... It is not 
by a process of expansion of the self that we can pass from the 
first state to the second. . . . When we dispel appearances to 
get at reality, . . , then at the two extremes we find pressure 
and aspiration; the former the more perfect as it becomes 

26. Tylor, op. cit, (3d ed.), II, 32 f. 


ll 7 

more impersonal, closer to those natural forces which we call 
habit or even instinct, the latter the more powerful according 
as it is more obviously aroused in us by definite persons and 
the more it apparently triumphs over nature." 27 

It is rather surprising that Bergson, whose doctrine has often 
been described as a biological philosophy, as a philosophy of 
life and nature, in his last work seems to be led to a moral and 
religious ideal that goes far beyond this field. 

“Man outwits nature when he extends social solidarity into 
the brotherhood of man; but he is deceiving her nevertheless; 
for those societies whose design was prefigured in tire original 
structure of the human soul . . . required that the group be 
closely united, but that between group and group there should 
be virtual hostility. . . . Man, fresh from the hands of nature, 
was a being both intelligent and social, his sociability being 
devised to find its scope in small communities, his intelligence 
being designed to further individual and group life. But intel- 
ligence, expanding through its own efforts, has developed un- 
expectedly. It has freed men from restrictions to which they 
were condemned by the limitations of their nature. This being 
so, it was not impossible that some of them, specially gifted, 
should reopen that which was closed and do, at least for them- 
selves, what nature could not possibly have done for man- 
kind.” 28 

Bergson's ethics is a consequence and a corollary of his 
metaphysics. Tile task he set to himself was to interpret man’s 
ethical life in terms of his metaphysical system. In his philoso- 
phy of nature the organic world had been describecUas the 
result of a struggle between two contrary forces. Oil the one 
hand we find the mechanism of matter, on the othfr hand 
the creative and the constructive power of the ihn vital. The 
pendulum of life constantly swings from one pole to the other. 
The inertia of matter resists the energy of the vital impulse. 

27, Bergson, Les deux sources de la morale et de la religion, English 
trails, by R, Ashley Audra and Cloudesley Breretnn, The Two Sources 
of Morality and Religion (New York, Holt & Co., 1935), ir, a;, J6, 

, 3 °. 4 2 - 

28. Bergson, op. cit., pp. 48 f. 

According to Bergson man’s ethical life reflects the same meta- 
physical strife between an active and a passive principle. Social 
life repeats and mirrors the universal process which we find 
in organic life. It is divided between two opposite forces. The 
one tends to maintaining and making eternal the present state 
of affairs; the other is striving for new forms of human life 
which never existed before. The first tendency is characteristic 
of static religion, the second of dynamic religion. The two can 
never he reduced to the same denominator. Mankind could 
only come by a sudden jump from one point to the other, 
from passivity to activity, from social pressure to an individual, 
self-dependent, ethical life, 

I do not deny that there is a fundamental difference be- 
tween the two forms of religion described by Bergson as those 
of "pressure” and “appeal.” His book gives a very clear and 
impressive analysis of both these forms. Yet a metaphysical 
system cannot content itself with a mere analytic description 
of phenomena; it must try to trace them back to their ultimate 
causes. Bergson had, therefore, to derive the two types of moral 
and religious life from two divergent forces: the one governing 
primitive social life, the other breaking the chain of society iu 
order to create a new ideal of a free personal life. If we accept 
this thesis there exists no continuous process which can lead 
from one form to the other. It is a sudden crisis of thought 
and a revolution of feeling that marks the transition from 
static to dynamic religions. 

Yet a closer study of the history of religion is scarcely apt to 
corroborate this conception. From a historical point of view it 
is very ‘difficult to maintain the trenchant distinction between 
the two sources of religion and morality. Surely Bergson did 
not moan to found his ethical and religious theory on mere 
metaphysical reasons, He always refers to the empirical evi- 
dence contained in the works of sociologists and anthropolo- 
gists. Among the students of anthropology it was, indeed, long 
a current opinion that, under the conditions of primitive social 
life, we cannot speak of any activity on the part of the indi- 
vidual, In primitive society— it was assumed-the individual 
had not yet entered the lists. The feelings, the thoughts, the 


u 9 

acts of man did not proceed from himself; they were impressed 
on him by an external force. Primitive life is characterized by 
a rigid, uniform, inexorable mechanism. Tradition and custom 
were obeyed slavishly and unwittingly through mere mental 
inertia or through a pervading group instinct, This automatic 
submission of every member of the tribe to its laws was long 
regarded as the fundamental axiom underlying the inquiry 
into primitive order and adherence to rule. Recent anthropo- 
logical research has done much to shake this dogma of the 
complete mechanism and automatism of primitive social life. 
According to Malinowski this dogma has placed the reality of 
native life in a false perspective. As he points ont, the savage 
has undoubtedly the greatest respect for his tribal custom and 
tradition as such; but the force of custom or tradition is not 
the only one in savage life. Even on a very low level of human 
culture there are definite traces of a different force. 2 ” A life 
of mere pressure, a human life in which all individual activities 
were completely suppressed and eliminated, seems to be 
rather a sociological or metaphysical construction than a his- 
torical reality. 

In the history of Greek culture we find a period in which 
the old gods, the gods of Homer and Hesiod, began to decline. 
The popular conceptions of these gods are vigorously attacked. 
There arises a new religious ideal formed by individual men. 
The great poets and the great thinkers-Aeschylus and 
Euripides, Xenophanes, Heraclitus, Anaxagoras-create new 
'intellectual and moral standards. When measured by these 
standards the Homeric gods lose their authority. Their an- 
thropomorphic character is clearly seen and severely critftized. 
Nevertheless this anthropomorphism of Greek popular reli- 
gion was by no means devoid of a positive value and- signifi- 
cance. The humanization of the gods was an indispensable 
step in the evolution of religious thought. In many local Greek 
cults we still find definite traces of animal worship and even 
totemistic creeds. 00 "The progress of Greek religion,” says 

29. See Malinowski, Crime and Custom in Savage Society (Loudon 
and New York, 1926). 

50. For further details see Jane Ellen Harrison, Prolegomena to the 
Study of Greek Religion (Cambridge, 1903), chap. i. 


Gilbert Murray, "falls naturally into three stages, all of them 
historically important. First there is the primitive Euetheia or 
Age of Ignorance before Zeus came to trouble men’s minds, 
a stage to which our anthropologists and explorers have found 
parallels in every part of the world ... In some ways charac- 
teristically Greek, in others it is so typical of similar stages of 
thought elsewhere that one is tempted to regard it as the nor- 
mal beginning of all religion, or almost as the normal raw ma- 
terial ouL of which religion is made .” 31 Then comes that 
process which in the work ot Gilbert Murray is described as 
the “Olympian conquest." After this conquest man conceived 
nature and his own place in nature in a different sense. The 
general feeling of the solidarity of life gave way to a new and 
stronger motive-to the specific sense of man’s individuality. 
There was no longer a natural kinship, a consanguinity that 
connects man with plants or animals. In his personal gods man 
began to see his own personality in a new light. This progress 
is clearly to be felt in the development of the highest god, of 
the Olympian Zeus. Even Zeus is a god of nature, a god wor- 
shiped on the mountain tops, holding sway over the clouds, 
the rain, the thunder. But gradually he assumes new shape. 
In Aeschylus he has become the expression of the highest 
ethical ideals, the guardian and protector of justice. "The 
Homeric religion," says Murray, “is a step in the self-realiza- 
tion of Greece. . . . The world was conceived as neither quite 
without external governance, nor as merely subject to the in- 
cursions of mam snakes and bulls and thunder-stones and 
monsters, but as governed by an organized body of personal 
and reasoning rulers, wise and bountiful fathers, like man in 
mind and shape, only unspeakably higher .” 82 

In this progress of religious thought we become cognizant 
of the awakening of a new strength and a new activity of the 
human mind. Philosophers and anthropologists have often 
told us that the true and ultimate source of religion is man’s 
feeling- of dependency, According to Sclileiermacher religion 

31. Gilbert Murray, Five Stages of Greek Religion, Columbia Uni- 
versity Lectures {Mew York, Columbia University Press, 1930), p. 16. 

32. Idem, p, 81. 



has arisen from “the feeling of absolute dependence on the 
Divine." In The Golden Bough J. G. Frazer adopted this 
thesis. “Thus religion,” he says, “beginning as a slight and 
partial acknowledgment of powers superior to man, tends with 
the growth of knowledge to deepen into a confession of man’s 
entire and absolute dependence on the divine; his old free 
bearing is exchanged for an attitude of lowliest prostration 
before the mysterious powers of the unseen.” 83 But if this 
description of religion contains any truth it gives us only half 
the truth. In no one field of human culture can an “attitude 
of lowliest prostration” be thought to be the genuine and 
decisive impulse, From an entirely passive attitude there Can- 
not develop any productive energy. In this regard even magic 
is to be taken as an important step in the development of hu- 
man consciousness. Faith in magic is one of the earliest and 
most striking expressions of man's awakening self-confidence. 
Here he no longer feels himseif at the mercy of natural or 
supernatural forces. He begins to play his own part, he be- 
comes an actor in the spectacle of nature. Every magical prac- 
tice is based upon the conviction that natural effects to a large 
degree depend on human deeds. The life of nature depends on 
the right distribution and cooperation ot human and super- 
human forces. A strict and elaborate ritual regulates this co- 
operation. Every particular field has its own magic rules. There 
are special rules for agriculture, for bunting, for fishing. In 
totemistic societies the different clans possess different magical 
'rites that are their privilege and their secret. They become so 
much the more necessary the more difficult and dangerous a 
special performance is. Magic is not used for practical pur- 
poses, for supporting man in bis needs of everyday life. It is 
destined for higher aims, for bold and dangerous enterprises. 
In his description of the mythology of the natives of the 
Trobriand Islands in Melanesia Malinowski reports that in all 
those tasks that need no particular and exceptional efforts, no 
special courage or endurance, we find no magic and no. mythol- 
ogy. But a highly developed magic and, connected with it, a 
mythology always occur if a pursuit is dangerous and its is- 
33. Frazer, The Golden Bough, I, 78. 


sues uncertain. In minor economic pursuits such as arts and 
crafts, hunting, the collection of roots and the gathering of 
fruit man is not in need of magic. 34 It is only under a strong 
emotional strain that he takes recourse to magical rites, But 
it is precisely the performance of these rites that gives him a 
new feeling of his own powers-his will power and his energy, 
What man wins by magic is the highest concentration of all 
his efforts which under other commonplace circumstances are 
dispersed or incoherent. It is the technique of magic itself 
that requires such intense concentration. Every magical ait 
needs the highest attention. If it is not performed in the right 
order and according to the same invariable mles iL fails of its 
effect. In this regard magic may be said to be the first school 
through which primitive man had to pass. Even if it cannot 
lead to the desired practical ends, if it cannot fulfil the wishes - 
of man, it teaches him to have confidence in his owu powers- 
to regard himself as a being who need not simply submit to 
the forces of nature but is able by spiritual energy to regulate 
and control them. 

The relation between magic and religion is one of the most 
obscure and most controversial subjects. Philosophical anthro- 
pologists have over and over again attempted to clarify this 
question. But their theories are widely divergent and often in 
flagrant contradiction with each other. It is natural to desire a 
clear-cut definition that would enable us to trace a shaip line 
of demarcation between magic and religion. Theoretically 
speaking, we arc convinced that they cannot mean the same , 
thing and we are loath to trace them to a common origin. We' 
think-flf religion as the symbolic expression of our highest 
moral ideals; we think of magic as a crude aggregate of super- 
stitions- Religious belief seems to become mere superstitious 
credulity if we admit any relationship with magic. On the 
other hand the character of our anthropological and ethno- fc 
graphical material makes it extremely difficult to separate the 
two fields. Tlie attempts made in this direction have become 
more arid more questionable. It seems to be one of the postu- 
lates of modern anthropology that there is complete continuity 

34. Malinowski, The Foundations of Faith and Morals, p. 22. 


» J 3 

betweeen magic and religion. 86 Frazer was one of the first to 
try to prove that even from an anthropological point of view 
magic and religion cannot be subsumed under a common 
heading. According to him they are entirely different in psy- 
chological origin and they tend to opposite aims. The failure 
and breakdown of magic paved the way to religion. Magic had 
to collapse that religion might arise. “Man saw that he had 
taken for causes what were no causes, and that all his efforts 
to work by means of these imaginary causes had been vain. His 
painfnl toil had been wasted, his curious ingenuity had been 
squandered to no purpose. He had been pulling at strings to 
which nothing was attached.' It was in despairing of magic 
that man found religion and that he discovered its true sense. 
"If the great world went on its way without the help of him or 
his fellows, it must surely be because there were other beings, 
like himself, but far stronger, who, unseen themselves, di- 
rected its course and brought about all the varied series of 
events which he had hitherto believed to be dependent on his 
own magic.” 80 

This distinction, however, seems to be rather artificial both 
from a systematic point of view and from that of the ethno- 
logical facts. We have no empirical evidence at all that there 
ever was an age of magic that has been followed and super- 
seded by an age of religion. 81 And even the psychological 
analysis, on which this distinction between the two ages is 
based, is questionable. Frazer regards magic as the offspring 
of a theoretical or scientific activity, as a result of the curios- 
ity of man. This curiosity incited man to inquire issto the 
causes of things; but since he was unable to discover the real 
causes he had to satisfy himself with fictitious causes. 88 Re- 
ligion, on the other hand, has no theoretical aims; it is an ex- 

35. See, for instance, R. R. Marett:, Faith, Hope, and Charity fa 
Primitive Religion, the Gifiord Lectures (Macmillan, 193a), Lecture 
II, pp. 21 3 . 

36. Frazer, op, eit., I, 76 f. 

37. See the criticism of Frazer's theory in Marett, The Threshold of 
Religion, pp. 29 ft. 

38. See above, p. 75 f. 


pression of ethical ideals. But both of these views seem to he 
untenable if we look at the facts of primitive religion. From 
the first religion had to fulfil a theoretical and a practical ’ 
function. It contains a cosmology and an anthropology; 
it answers the question of the origin of the world and 
the origin of human society. And from this origin it 
derives man’s duties and obligations. These two aspects 
are not sharply distinguished; they are combined and fused 
together in that fundamental feeling that we have tried 
to describe as the feeling of the solidarity of life. Here 
we find a common source of magic and religion. Magic 
is not a kind of science-a pseudo science. Nor is it to be 
derived from that principle which in modem psychoanalysis 
has been described as the "omnipotence of thought” (All- _ 
macht des Cedankens). m Neither the mere wish to know nor- 
the mere wish to possess and to master nature can account for 
the facts of magic. Frazer makes a sharp distinction between 
two forms of magic that he designates as “imitative magic" 
and “sympathetic magic.” ' M But all magic is “sympathetic” 
in its origin and in its significance; for man would not think of 
coming into a magical contact with nature if he had not the 
conviction that there is a common bond that unites all things 
-that the separation between himself and nature and between 
the different kinds of natural objects is, after all, an artificial, 
not a real one. 

In philosophical language this conviction has been ex- 
pressed by the Stoic maxim, sympatheid tdn holdn, which in a • 
certain sense expresses very concisely that fundamental belief’ 
whiclfris at the bottom of all magic rituals. It is true that it 
seems to be dangerous and arbitrary to apply a conception ot 
Greek -philosophy to the most rudimentary beliefs of man- 
kind. But the Stoics, who coined this concept of the “sympa- 
thy of the Whole,” had by no means completely outgrown the- 
views of popular religion. By virtue of their principle of the 
n otitiae ccmmunes-ot those common notions that are found 
the world over and at all times-they strove to reconcile mythi- 

59. Cf. Freud, Totem und Tabu (Vienna, 1920). 

40. Cf. Frazer, op. cit., 1 , 9. 



cal and philosophical thought; they admitted that even the 
latter contains some elements of truth. They themselves did 
not hesitate to use the argument of the “sympathy of the 
Whole” to interpret and justify popular beliefs. As a matter of 
fact the Stoic doctrine of an all-pervading pneum-ol a breath 
diffused throughout the universe which imparts to all things 
the tension by which they are held together-still shows very 
striking analogies with primitive concepts, with the mana of 
the Polynesians, the Iroquois orenda, the Sioux wakan, the 
Algonquian manitu . 41 Of course to put the philosophical in- 
terpretation on the same level as the mythico-magical in- 
terpretation would be preposterous. Nevertheless we can trace 
both of them back to a common root, to a very deep stratum 
of religious feeling. In order to penetrate into this stratum we 
must not try to construct a theory of magic based on the 
principles of our empirical psychology, especially on the prin- 
ciples of the association of ideas . 42 We must approach the 
problem from the side of magic ritual. Malinowski has given a 
very impressive description of tribal festivities of the natives 
of the Trobriand Islands. They are always accompanied by 
mythical talcs and magical ceremonies. During the sacred sea- 
son, the season of harvest rejoicing, the younger generation are 
reminded by their elders that the spirits of their ancestors are 
about to return from the underworld. The spirits come for a 
few weeks and settle again in the villages, perched in file trees, 
sitting on high platforms specially erected for them, watching 
ithe magical dances 43 Such a magical rite gives us a clear and 
concrete impression of the hue sense of "sympathetic magic,” 
and of its social and religious function. The men whS cele- 
brate such a festivity, who perform their magical dances, are 
fused with each other and fused with all things in -nature. 
They are not isolated; their joy is felt by the whole of nature 
and shared by their ancestors. Space and time have vanished; 

41. For a more detailed description of these concepts and their sig- 
nificance in mythical thought see Philosophic der symbolischen For- 
men, II, 98 If. ' 

42 Such a theory has been developed by Frazer, Lectures on the 
Early History of Kingship, pp. 52 ft. 

43. Cf, Malinowski, op. cit., p. 14. 


the past has become the present; the golden age of mankind 
has come back. 44 

Religion had not the power, nor could it ever tend, to sup- 
press or eradicate these deepest instincts of mankind. It had to 
fulfil a different task-tn use them and lead them into new 
channels. The belief in the “sympathy of tire Whole” is one 
of the firmest foundations of religion itself. But religious sym- 
pathy is of a different kind from the mythical and magical. It 
gives scope for a new feeling, that of individuality. Yet we ap- 
pear to he confronted here with one of the fundamental 
antinomies of religious thought. Individuality seems to be a 
negation or at least a restriction of that universality of feeling 
that is postulated by religion: omnis determimtio est negatio. 
It means finite existence-and as long as we do not break the 
barriers of this finite existence we cannot grasp the infinite. It 
was this difficulty and this riddle that had to he solved by the 
progress of religious thought. We can follow this progress in a 
threefold direction. We can describe it in its psychological, its 
sociological, and its ethical implications. The development of 
the individual, the social, the moral consciousness tends to the 
same point. It shows a progressive differentiation that finally 
leads to a new integration. The conceptions of primitive reli- 
gion are much more vague and indeterminate than our own 
conceptions and ideals. The mana of the Polynesians, like the 
corresponding conceptions that we find in other parts of the 
world, shows this vague and fluctuating character. It has no 
individuality, either subjective or objective. It is conceived as, 
a common mysterious stuff that permeates all things. Accord- 
ing to the definition of Codrington, who was the first to de- 
scribe the concept of mana, it is “a power or influence, not 

44. Tire Arunta people of the central deserts of Australia, says 
Marett, “set up by means of their dramatic rites a sort of timeless 
Alcheringa into which they can turn aside from the hardships of their 
present lot, so as to refresh themselves by communion with trans- 
cendent beings who are at once their forefathers and their ideal 
selves, for the rest it is to be noted that of distinctive individuality 
these supermen of tire Alcheringa have almost none. The chorus seeks 
simply to glut its collective soul with the glamour of ancestry— with 
the consciousness of kind. The mana in which they participate is 
tribal.” Faith, Hope, and Charity in Primitive Religion, p. 36, 



physical, and in a way super-natural; but it shows itself in 
physical force, or in any kind of power or excellence which a 
' man possesses." It may be the attribute of a soul or spirit; 
but it is not in itself a spirit— it is not an animistic but a pre- 
animistic conception . 46 It is to be found in all things 
whatsoever regardless of their special nature and their generic 
distinction. A stone which attracts attention by its size or its 
singular shape is filled with mana and will exert magical 
powers . 47 It is not bound up with a special subject; the mana 
of a man may be stolen from him and transferred to a new 
possessor. We can distinguish in it no individual features, no 
personal identity. One of the first and most important func- 
tions of all the higher religions was to discover and to reveal 
such personal elements in what was called the Holy, the 
■ Sacred, the Divine. 

But in order to attain this end religious thought had to 
come a long way. Man could not give his gods a definite in- 
dividual shape before he had found a new principle of 
differentiation in his own existence and in his social life. He 
found this principle not in abstract thought but in his work. 
It was in fact the division of labor that introduced a new era 
of religious thought. Long before the appearance of the per- 
sonal gods we meet with those gods that have been called 
functional gods. They arc not as yet the personal gods of Greek 
religion, the Olympian gods of Homer. On the other hand 
they no longer have the vagueness of the primitive mythical 
(Conceptions. They are concrete beings; but they arc concrete 
‘ in their actions, not in their personal appearance or existence. 
They have, therefore, no proper names-like Zeus, IHera, 
•Apollo-but adjectival names that characterize their special 
function or activity. In many cases they are bound up.with a 
special place; they are local, not general gods. If we wish to 
understand the true character of these functional gods and 
the role they play in the development of religious thought we 

45, R. H. Codrington, The Melanesians (Oxford, Clarendon Press, 
1891), p. 118. 

46, For this problem see Marett, "The Conception of Mana," The 
_ Threshold of Religion, pp. 99 IT. 

47, Codrington, op. cit., p. 219. 


must look at Roman religion. There the differentiation has 
reached the highest degree. In the life of a Roman farmer 
every act, however specialized, had its specific religious 
meaning. There was one class of deities-of Di Indigites- 
that watched over the act of sowing, another that watched 
over the act of harrowing, of manuring; there was a Sator, an 
Occator, a Steiculinns . 18 In all agricultural work there was not 
a single act that was not under guidance and protection of 
functional deities, and each class had its own rites and ob- 

In this religious system we see all the typical features of the 
Roman mind. It is a sober, practical, energetic mind endowed 
with a great power of concentration. To a Roman life meant 
active life. And he had the special gift of organizing this 
active life, of regulating and coordinating all its efforts. Tire - 
religious expression of this tendency is to be found in the 
Roman functional gods. They have to fulfil definite practical 
tasks. They are not a product of religious imagination or in- 
spiration; they are conceived as the rulers of particular ac- 
tivities. They ate, so to speak, administrative gods who have 
shared among themselves the different provinces of human 
life. They have no definite personality; but they are clearly 
distinguished by their office, and upon this office their re- 
ligious dignity depends. 

Of a different type are those gods that were revered in 
every Roman house: the gods of the flame on the hearth. 
They do not originate in a special and restricted sphere of s 
practical life. They express the deepest feelings of Roman' 
family life; they are the sacred center of the Roman home. 
These gods arose from piety toward ancestors. But they too 
have no individual physiognomy. They are the Di Manes - 
the "good gods”-conceived in a collective, not in a personal 
sense. The term “manes” never appears in the singular. It 
was only in a later period, when the Greek influence became 
preponderant, that these gods assumed a more personal shape. 
In their earliest state the Di Manes are still an indefinite mass 
of spirits bound together by their common relation to the 

48. For details see Philosophic da symbolischen Formen, II, 246 ff. 


1J 9 

family. They have been described as mete potentialities 
thought of in groups rather than as individuals. “Subsequent 
' centuries,” it has been said, “saturated with Greek philosophy 
and filled with an idea of individuality which was totally 
lacking in the earlier days of Rome, identified this poor shad- 
owy potentiality with the human soul, and read into the whole 
matter a belief in immortality." In Rome it was “the family 
idea, so fundamental in the social structure of Roman life, 
r that triumphed over the grave and possessed an immortality 
which tire individual failed to obtain.” 49 

Quite a different tendency of thought and feeling seems to 
have prevailed from very early times in Greek religion. Here 
too we find definite traces of ancestor worship. 00 Greek classi- 
cal literature has preserved many of these traces. Aeschylus 
>and Sophocles describe the gifts — the libations of milk, the 
garlands of flowers, the locks of hair — that are offered at the 
tomb of Agamemnon by bis children. But under the influence 
of the Homeric poems all these archaic features of Greek reli- 
gion begin to fade away. They arc overshadowed by a new 
, direction of mythical and religious thought. Greek art paved 
1 the way to a new conception of the gods. As Herodotus says, 
Homer and Hesiod “gave the Greek gods their names and 
portrayed their shapes." And the work that had been begun 
by Greek poetry was completed in Greek sculpture: we can 
scarcely think of the Olympian Zeus without representing him 
in the shape that lie received from Phidias. Wbat was denied 
■ jiO the active and practical Roman mind was performed by the 
'contemplative and artistic mind of the Greeks. It was no 
moral tendency which created the Homeric gods. The Greek 
philosophers were right in complaining of the character of 
these gods. “Homer and Hesiod,” says Xenophanes,, "have 
ascribed to the gods all deeds that are a shame and a disgrace 
among men: thieving, adultery, fraud.” Yet this very lack and 
4 defect of the Greek personal gods was able to bridge the gap 
between the human and the divine nature. In the Homeric 

49. See }. B, Carter in an article in Hastings' Encyclopedia, I, 462, 

50, For this question see Erwin Rohde, Psyche. The Cult of Soufs 
and Belief ill Immortality among the Greeks (New York, Harcourt, 
Brace, 1925), 


poems we find no definite barrier between the two worlds. 
What man portrays in his gods is himself, in all his variety 
and multiformity, his turn of mind, his temperament, even 
his idiosyncrasies. But it is not, as in Roman religion, the 
practical side of his nature that man projects upon the deity. 
The Homeric gods represent no moral ideals, but they 
express very characteristic mental ideals. They are not those 
functional and anonymous deities that have to watch over a 
special activity of man: they are interested in and favor in- 
dividual men. Every god and goddess has his favorites who 
are appreciated, loved, and assisted, not on the ground of a 
mere personal predilection but by virtue of a kind of mental 
relationship that connects the god and the man. Mortals and 
immortals are the embodiments not of moral ideals but of 
special mental gifts and tendencies. In the Homeric poems 
we often find very clear and characteristic expressions of this 
new religious feeling. When Odysseus returns to Ithaca with- 
out knowing that he has come to his native country Athene 
appears to him in the form of a young shepherd and asks him 
his name. Odysseus who is anxious to keep his incognito im- 
mediately concocts a story full of lies and deceptions. The 
goddess smiles at this story, recognizing what she herself has 
bestowed upon him: “Cunning must he be and knavish who 
would go beyond thee in all manner of guile, aye, though it 
were a god that met thee. Bold man, crafty in counsel, in- 
satiate in deceit, not even in thine own land, it seems, wast 
thou to cease from guile and deceitful tales, which thou loveslv 
from the bottom of thine heart. But come, let us no longer' 
talk of tliis, being both well versed in craft, since thou art fat 
the best of all men in counsel and in speech, and I among all 
the gods am famed for wisdom and craft. . . . Ever such 
is the thought in thy breast, and therefore it is that I cannot 
leave thee in thy sorrow, for thou art soft of speech, keen of 
wit, and prudent.” 61 

It is quite a different aspect of the Divine which we meet 
with in the great monotheistic religions. These religions arei 
the offspring of moral forces; they concentrate upon a singlet 

51. The Odyssey, Bk. XIII, w. 291 S. Trans, by A. T. Murray (Loeb, 
Classical Library, Harvard University Press, Cambridge, Mass., 1930), 


1 3 1 

point, upon the problem of good and evil. In the religion of 
Zoroaster there is only one Supreme Being Ahura Mazda, the 
'Vise lord." Beyond him, apart from him, and without him 
nothing exists. He is the first and foremost, the most perfect 
being, the absolute sovereign. Here we find no individualiza- 
tion, no plurality of gods that are the representatives of dif- 
ferent natural powers or different mental qualities. Primitive 
mythology is attacked and overcome by a new force, a purely 
•lethical force. In tire first conceptions of the holy, tire super- 
natural, such a force is entirely unknown. The mana, the 
1 wakan, or the orenda may be used for good or bad purposes- 
it always works in the same way. It acts, as Codrington says, 
"in all kinds of ways for good and evil .” 52 Mana may be 
described as the first, or existential, dimension of the super- 
iuatural-but it has nothing to do with its moral dimension. 
Here the good manifestations of the all-pervading supernatural 
power are on the same level with the malign or destructive 
ones . 53 From its very beginnings the religion of Zoroaster is 
radically opposed to this mythical indifference or to that 
aesthetic indifference which is characteristic of Greek poly, 
'theism. This religion is not a product of mythical or aesthetic 
imagination; it is the expression of a great personal moral will, 
Even nature assumes a new shape, for it is seen exclusively in 
the mirror of ethical life. No religion could ever think of cut- 
ting or even loosening the bond between nature and man. But 
in the great ethical religions this bond is tied and fastened in 
'"a i new sense. The sympathetic connection that we find in 
inagic and in primitive mythology is not denied or destroyed; 
but nature is now approached from the rational insteaH of 
from the emotional side. If nature contains a divine element 
it appears not in the abundance of its life but in the sim- 
plicity of its order. Nature is not, as in polytheistic religion, 
the great and benign mother, the divine lap from which all 
hife originates. It is conceived as the sphere of law and lawful- 
! ness. And by this feature alone it proves its divine origin. In 
Zoroastrian religion nature is described by the concept of 

52. Codrington, op. cit., p.118. 

53. See Marett, ‘'The Conception of Mana," op. cit, pp. 11a ft. 

1 3 2 

Asha. Asha is the wisdom of nature that reflects the wisdom of 
its creator, of Ahura Mazda, the “wise lord." This universal, 
eternal, inviolable order governs the world and determines 
all single events; the path of the sun, the moon, the stars, the 
growth of plants and animals, the way of winds and clouds. 
All this is maintained and preserved, not by mere physical 
forces but by the force of the Good. The world has become a 
great moral drama in which both nature and man have to play 
their roles. 

Even in a very primitive stage of mythical thought we find 
a conviction that man, in order to attain a desired end, has to 
cooperate with nature and its divine or demonic powers. Na- 
ture does not bestow its gifts upon him without his active 
assistance. In the religion of Zoroaster we meet with the same 
conception. But here it points in an entirely new direction,. 
The ethical meaning has replaced and superseded the magical 
meaning. The whole life of man becomes an uninterrupted 
struggle for the sake of righteousness. The triad of “good 
thoughts, good words, and good deeds” has the leading part 
in this struggle. The Divine is no longer sought or approached 
by magical powers hut by the power of righteousness. From- 
now on there is not a single step in man’s everyday practical 
life that, in a religious and moral sense, is regarded as in- 
significant or indifferent. Nobody can stand aside in the 
combat between the divine and tire demonic power, between 
Ahura Mazda and Angra Mainyu, The two primal spirits, 
says one of the texts, who revealed themselves in vision aj * 
twins are the Better and the Bad. Between these two the wisas I 
knew how to choose aright, the foolish not so. Every act, how- j 
ever common or humble, has its definite ethical worth and is < 
tinged with a specific ethical color. It means Order or disorder, j 
preservation or destruction. The man who cultivates or 1 
waters the soil, who plants a tree, who kills a dangerous animal, 
performs a religious duty; he prepares and secures the final*' 
victory of the power of the good, of tire “wise lord,” over his 
demonic adversary. In all this we feel a heroic effort of- 
mankind; an effort to get rid of the pressure and compulsion 
of magic forces, a new ideal of freedom. For here it is only by 
freedom, by a self-dependent decision, that man can corned 


into contact with tlie divine. By such a decision man becomes 
the ally of the godhead. 

" “The decision between the two ways of life rests with the 
individual. Man is the arbiter of his destiny. He has the power 
and freedom to choose between truth and falsehood, right- 
eousness and wickedness, good and evil. He is responsible for 
the moral choice he makes and is consequently responsible for 
his actions. If he makes the right choice and embraces right- 
eousness, he will reap its reward, but if, as a free agent, he 
chooses wickedness, Hie accountability will be his and his own 
daena or self will lead him to retribution. ... [In the end 
there will come] the period when every individual in his Or 
her own capacity will embrace and act righteousness and will 
. thus make the entire world of humanity gravitate towards 
'Asha. . . . All . . . have to contribute to this mighty work. 
The righteous ones living in different ages and at different 
places form the members of one righteous group, inasmuch 
as they are all actuated by one and the same motive and work 
for the common cause. 1 ’ 54 It is this form of a universal ethical 
sympathy which in monotheistic religion gains the victory over 
lire primitive feeling of a natural or magical solidarity of life. 

When Greek philosophy approached the problem it could 
hardly surpass the greatness and sublimity of these religious 
thoughts. Greek philosophy, in later Hellenistic times, re- 
tained a great many religious and even mythical motives. In 
Stoic philosophy the concept of a universal providence 
ttyronok) that leads the world to its goal is central. And even 
Sere man, as a conscious and rational being, has to work for 
the sake of providence. The universe is a great society of Sod 
and men, "urbs Dis hominibusque communis." 65 To “live 
with the Gods” (suzen theois] means to work with them.'Man 
is no mere spectator; he is, according to his measure, the 
creator of the world order. The wise man is a priest and 
'“minister of the gods. 66 Here too we find the conception of 

54. M. N. Dhalla, History of Zoroastrianism (New York, Oxford 
University Press, 1938), pp. 52 ff. 

J'. Seneca, Ad Marciam de consofatione, 18. 

56. Marcus Aurelius, Ad se ipsum, Bk. Ill, par. 4. 


the "sympathy of the Whole," but it is now understood and 
interpreted in a new ethical sense. 

All this could only be attained by a slow and continuous 
development of religious thought and feeling. The transition 
from the most rudimentary forms to the higher and highest 
forms could not he made by a sudden jump. Bergson declares 
that without such a jump mankind would not have bceu able 
to End its way to a pure dynamic religion— to a religion that is 
based not upon social pressure and obligation but upon 
freedom. But his own metaphysical thesis of “creative evolu- 
tion” scarcely favors such a view. Without the great creative 
spirits, without the prophets that felt themselves inspired by 
the power of God and destined to reveal his will, religion 
would not have found its way. But even these individual 
powers could not change its fundamentally social character) 
They could not create a new religion out of nothing. The great 
individual religious reformers were not living in empty space, 
in the space of their own religious experience and inspiration. 
By a thousand bonds they were tied to their social environ- 
ment. It is not by a sort of revolt that mankind passes fronf 
moral obligation to religious freedom. Even Bergson admits 
that, historically speaking, the mystic spirit that he thinks to 
he the spirit of true religion is no break in continuity. Mysti- 
cism reveals to us, or rather would reveal to us, if we actually 
willed it, a marvelous prospect; hut we do not, and in most 
cases we could not, will it; we should collapse under the straii\. 
Therefore we remain with a mixed religion. In history we find 
interposed transitions between two things which are as a mat- 
ter of fact radically diSerent in nature and which, at Erst 
sight, we can hardly believe deserve the same name . 57 For the 
philosopher, for the metaphysician these two forms of reli- 
gion always remain antagonistic. He cannot derive them from, 
the same origin, for they are expressions of totally different' 
forces. One is entirely based on instinct; it is the instinct of 
life that has created the myth-making function. But religion 
does not arise from instinct nor from intelligence or reason. It 

57 . Bergson, op. cit., pp, ior ft. 


needs a new impetus, a special kind of intuition and inspira- 

“To get at the very essence of religion and understand the 
history of mankind, one must needs pass at once from the 
static and outer religion to dynamic, inner religion. The first 
was designed to ward off the dangers to which intelligence 
might expose man; it was infra-intellectual. . . . Later, and 
by an effort which might easily never have been made, man 
wrenched himself free from this motion of his on his own axis. 
He plunged anew into the enrrent of evolution, at the same 
time carrying it forward. Here was dynamic religion, coupled 
doubtless with higher intellectuality, tmt distinct from it. The 
first form of religion had been infra-intellectiral ... the sec- 
ond was supra-intellectual.” 68 

Such a sharp dialectic distinction between three fundamen- 
tal poweis-instinct, intelligence, and mystical intuition-is, 
however, out of keeping with the facts of the history of reli- 
gion. Even the thesis of Frazer that mankind began with an 
age of magic that later on was followed and superseded by an 
age of religion is untenable. Magic lost ground by a very slow 
process. If we look at the history of our own European civiliza- 
tion we find that even in the most advanced stages, in the 
stages of a highly developed and very refined intellectual cul- 
ture, the belief in magic was not seriously shaken. Even 
religion could to a certain extent admit this belief. It forbade 
and condemned some magical practices, but there was a 
sphere of “white” magic that was thought to be innocuous. 
The thinkers of the Renaissance-Pcmponazzi, Cardano, 
Campanula, Bruno, Giambattista della Porta, Paracelsus— 
gave their own philosophical scientific theories of the magic 
ait. One of the noblest and most pious thinkers of the Renais- 
sance, Giovanni Pico della Mirandola, was convinced that 
magic and religion arc tied to each other by indissoluble 
bonds. “Nulla est scientia,” he says, “quae nos magis ceitificet 
de divinitate Christi qnam Magia et Cabala." We may infer 
from these examples what religious evolution really means. It 
does not mean the complete destruction of the first and funda- 

;8. Idem, pp. 175 f. 


mental characteristics of mythical thought. If the great 
individual religious reformers wished to be heard and under- 
stood they had to speak not only the language of God hut the 
language of man. But the great prophets of Israel no longer 
spoke merely to their own nations. Their God was a god of 
Justice and His message was not restricted to a special group. 
The prophets predicted a new heaven and a new earth. What 
is really new is not the contents of this prophetic religion but 
its inner tendency, its ethical meaning. One of the greatest 
miracles that all the higher religions had to perform was to 
develop their new character, their ethical and religious inter- 
pretation of life, out of the crude raw material of the most 
primitive conceptions, the grossest superstitions. 

There is perhaps no better example of this transformation 
than the development of the concept of taboo, There are many 
stages of human civilization in which we find no definite ideas 
of divine powers and no definite animism-no theory of the 
human soul. But there seems to be no society, however primi- 
tive, that has not developed a system of taboo-and in most 
eases this system has a very complex structure, In the 
Polynesian islands from which the term “taboo" is derived 
die name stands for the whole system of religion . 159 And we 
find many primitive societies in which the only ofEense known 
is taboo breaking . 60 In the elementary stages of human civili- 
sation the term covers the whole field of religion and morality. 
In this sense many historians of religion have ascribed to the 
taboo system a very high value. In spite of its obvious defects 
it was declared to he the first and indispensable germ of a 
higher cultural life; it was even said to be an a priori principle 
of moral and religious thought. Jevons describes the taboo as 
a sort of categorical imperative, the only one that was known 
and accessible to primitive man. The sentiment that there 
are some things which “must not be done,” he says, is purely 
formal and without content. The essence of taboo is that 

39. Cf. Marett, “Is Taboo a Negative Magic?” The Threshold of 
Religion, p. 84, 

do. Cf. F. B. Jevons, An introduction to the History of Religion 
(London, Methuen, 190a), p, 70. 



without consulting experience it pronounces a priori certain 
things to be dangerous. 

1 “Those things, as a matter of fact, were in a sense not 
dangerous, and the belief in their danger was irrational. Yet 
had not that belief existed, there would be now no morality, 
and consequently no civilization. . . . The belief was a fal- 
lacy. ... But this fallacy was tire sheath which enclosed and 
protected a conception that was to blossom and bear a price- 
less fruit— the conception of Social Obligation." Ql 

But how could such a conception develop from a conviction 
which, in itself, did not bear any relation to ethical values? In 
its original and literal sense taboo seems to mean only a thing 
that is marked off— that is not on the same level as other 
usual, profane, harmless things. It is surrounded by an atmos- 
phere of dread and danger. This danger has often been de- 
scribed as a supernatural one, but it is by no means a moral 
one. If it is distinguished from other things, this distinction 
does not mean moral discrimination and does not imply a 
moral judgment. A man who commits a crime becomes taboo 
but the same holds for a woman in childbirth. The “infectious 
impurity” extends to all spheres of life. A touch of the Divine 
is just as dangerous as a touch of physically impure things; 
the sacred and the abominable are on the same level, The 
“infection of holiness” produces the same results as the 
“pollution of uncleanness.” Who touches a corpse becomes 
unclean; but even a newborn child is feared in the same way. 

, Among some peoples children on the day of birth were so 
taboo that they might not be put upon the ground. And in 
consequence of the principle of the transmissibility «f the 
original infection there is no possible limit to its propagation, 
“A single thing taboo," it has been said, “might infect the 
whole universe.” 02 There is not a shadow of any individual 
responsibility in this system. If a man commits a crime it is 
not he himself who is marked o 5 -his family, his friends, his 

61. Idem, pp. 86 f. Quoted by courtesy of Methuen St Co ; and the 
Executors of F. B. Jevons. 

62. For the anthropological material see Frazer, The Golden Bough, 
I, 169 S. and Pt. VI, The Scapegoat; and Jevons, op. cit., chaps, 

> 3 8 

whole tribe bears the same mark. They are stigmatized; they 
partake in the same miasma. And the rites of purification 
correspond to this conception. The ablution is to be attained 
by merely physical and external means, Running water may 
wash away the stain of the crime. Sometimes the sin is trans- 
ferred to an animal, to a "scapegoat" or to a bird, which flies 
away with it. 83 

For all the higher religions it proved to be extremely diffi- 
cult to overcome this system of a very primitive tabooism. But 
after many efforts they succeeded in accomplishing this task. 
They needed for it the same process of discrimination and 
individualization that we attempted to describe above. The 
first necessary step was to find a line of demarcation that 
separated the holy sphere from the unclean or the uncanny. 
There can be little doubt that all the Semitic religions, at 
their first appearance, were based on a very complicated sys- 
tem of taboos. In his investigations of the religion of the 
Semites W. Robertson-Smith declares that the first Semitic 
rules of holiness and uncleanness are in their origin indis- 
tinguishable from savage taboos. Even in those religions that 
are based upon the purest ethical motives, there are still main- 
tained many features that point to an earlier stage of religious 
thought in which purity or impurity was understood in a 
merely physical sense. The religion of Zoroaster, for instance, 
contains very severe prescriptions against the pollution of the 
physical elements. To soil the pure element of fire by the 
touch of a corpse or any other unclean thing is regarded as a 
mortal sin. It is even a crime to bring back fire to a house in 
which a man has died, within nine nights in winter and a 
month in summer, 81 Even for the higher religion it was im- 
possible to neglect or suppress all these lustrative rules and 
rites. What could be altered and what had to be altered m the 
progress of religious thought were not the material taboos 
themselves but the motives that lay behind them. In the 
original system these motives were entirely irrelevant. Beyond 

63. For further details see Robertson-Smith, op. cit., Note G, pp. 
437 ff. 

64. For further details see Dhalla, op, cit., pp. 55, 221 ft. 


the region of our common and familiar tilings lies another 
one, filled with unknown powers and unknown dangers. A 
thing belonging to this field is marked off but it is only the 
distinction itself, not the direction of the distinction, that 
gives it its special maik. It may he taboo by its superiority or 
its inferiority, by its virtue or vice, by its excellence or de- 
pravity. In its beginnings religion does not dare to reject 
the taboo itself, for by an attack on this sacred sphere it would 
risk loss of its own ground. But it begins with introducing a 
new element. “The fact that all the Semites have rules of un- 
cleanness as well as rules of holiness,” says Robertson-Smith, 
“that the boundary between the two is often vague, and that 
the former as well as the latter present the most startling 
agreement in point of detail with savage taboos, leaves no 
reasonable doubt as to the origin and ultimate relations of the 
idea of holiness. On the other hand the fact that the Semites 
. . . distinguish between the holy and the unclean, marks a 
real advance above savagery. All taboos are inspired by awe of 
the supernatural, but there is a great moral difference between 
precautions against the invasion of mysterious hostile powers 
and precautions founded on respect for the prerogative of a 
friendly god. The former belong to magical superstition . . . 
which being founded only on fear, acts merely as a bar to 
progress and an impediment to the free use of nature by 
human energy and industry. But the restrictions on individual 
licence which are due to respect for a known and friendly 
power allied to man, however trivial and absurd they may 
appear to us in their details, contain within them germinailt 
principles of social progress and moral order.” 96 « 

To develop these principles it was imperative to make a 
sharp distinction between the subjective and the objective 
violation of a religious law. To the primitive system of taboos 
such a distinction is entirely alien. What matters here is the 
action itself, not the motive of the action. The danger of 
becoming taboo is a physical danger. It is entirely beyond the 
reach of our moral powers. The effect is quite the ‘same in 
the ease of an involuntary and a voluntary act. The infection 

65. Robertson-Smith, op. tit,, pp, 143 f. 


is entirely impersonal and it is transmitted in a merely 
passive way. Ccneially speaking the inclining of a taboo may 
be descubed as a sort of Noli me taugere-it is the untouch- 
able, a thing not to be lightly appioached. The way 01 the 
intentiun of approach does not count. A taboo limy be con- 
veyed not only by touch but also by heating or sight. And the 
consequences are the same whether I deliberately look at a 
tabooed object or incidentally and involuntarily catch sight 
of it. To be seen by a tabooed person, by a priest or king, is as 
dangerous as to look at him. . , the action of taboo is always 
mechanical; contact with the tabooed object communicates 
the taboo infection as certainly as contact with water com- 
municates moisture, or an electric current an electric shock. 
The intentions of the taboo-breaker have no effect upon 
the action of the taboo; he may touch in ignorance, or 
for the benefit of the person he touches, but he is ta- 
booed as surely as if his motive were irreverent or his 
action hostile. Nor does the mood of the sacred per- 
sons, the Mikado, the Polynesian chief, the priestess of 
Artemis Hymniu, modify the mechanical action of taboo; 
their touch or glance is as fatal to friend as foe, to plant life 
as to human. Still less does the morality of the taboo-breaker 
mattei; the penalty descends like rain alike upon the unjust 
and the just,” 9a But here begins that slow process that we 
have tried to designate by the name of a religious "change 
of meaning." If we look at the development of Judaism we 
feel how complete and how decisive this change of meaning 
was. In the prophetic books of the Old Testament we find an 
entirely new direction of thought and feeling. The ideal of 
purity means something quite diffcient from all the former 
mythical conceptions. To seek for purity or impurity in an 
object, in a material thing, has become impossible. Even 
human actions, as such, are no longer regarded as pure or im- 
pure, The only purity that has a religious significance and 
dignity is purity of the heart. 

And by this first discrimination we arc led to another one 
that is of no less importance. The taboo system imposes upon 

66. Jqvons, op. at,, p. 91. 


> 4 > 

man innumerable duties and obligations. But all these duties 
have a common character, They are entirely negative; they 
include uo positive ideal whatever. Some things have to be 
avoided; some actions have to be abstained from. What we 
find here are inhibitions and prohibitions, not moral or reli- 
gious demands. For it is fear that dominates the taboo sys- 
tem; and fear knows only how to forbid, not how to direct. It 
warns against the danger but it cannot arouse a new active or 
moral energy in man. The more the taboo system develops 
the more it threatens to congeal the life of man to a complete 
passivity. He cannot eat or drink, he cannot stay or walk. 
Even speech becomes irksome; in every word man is threat- 
ened by unknown dangers. In Polynesia it is not only forbid- 
den to utter the name of a chief or of a deceased person; even 
other words or syllables in which this name happens to 
appear may not be used in common conversation. It was here 
that religion, in its progress, found a new task. But the prob- 
lem that it had to confront was extremely difficult, and in a 
certain sense it seemed to be insoluble, In spite of all its 
obvious defects the taboo system was the only system of social 
restriction and obligation that had been discovered by man. 
It was the cornerstone of the whole social order. There was 
no part of the social system that was not regulated and gov- 
erned by special taboos. The relation between rulers and 
subjects, political life, sexual life, family life, possessed no 
other and no more sacred bond. The same holds for the whole 
economic life. Even property seems, in its very origin, to he a 
taboo institution. The first way to take possession of a thing 
or a person, to occupy a piece of ground or to betroth a 
woman, is to mark them by a taboo sign. It was impossible 
for religion to abrogate this complex system of interdictions. 
To suppress it would have meant complete anarchy. Yet the 
great religions teachers of mankind found a new impulse by 
which, henceforward, the whole life of man was led to a new 
direction. They discovered in themselves a positive power, a 
power not of inhibition but of inspiration and aspiration. 
They turned passive obedience into an active religious feeling. 
The taboo system threatens to make the life of man a burden 
that in the end becomes unbearable, Man’s whole existence, 


physical and moral, is smothered under the continual pres- 
sure of this system. It is here that religion intervenes. All the 
higher ethical religions-the religion of the prophets of Israel, 
Zoroastrianism, Christianity-set themselves a common task. 
They relieve the intolerable burden of the taboo system; but 
they detect, on the other hand, a more profound sense of 
religious obligation that instead of being a restriction or com- 
pulsion is the expression of a new positive ideal of human 

8 Language 

1 Language and myth are near of kin. In the early 
stages of human culture their relation is so dose and their 
cooperation so obvious that it is almost impossible to separate 
the one from the other. They are two different shoots from 
one and the same root. Whenever we 6nd man we find him in 
possession of the faculty of speech and under the influence of 
the myth-making function. Hence, for a philosophical anthro- 
pology it is tempting to bring both of these specifically human 
characteristics under a common head, Attempts in this direc- 
tion have often been made. F. Max Mailer developed a 
curious theory by which myth was explained as a mere by- 
product of language. He regarded myth as a sort of disease of 
the human mind, the causes of which arc to be sought in the 
faculty of speech. Language is, by its very nature and essence, 
metaphorical. Unable to describe things directly, it resorts to 
indirect modes of description, to ambiguous and equivocal 
terms. It is this inherent ambiguity of language to which, 
according to Max Muller, myth owes its origin and in which 
it has always found its mental nutriment. "The question of 
mythology," says Muller, ‘lias become in fact a question of 
psychology, and, as our psyche becomes objective to us chiefly 
' through language, a question of the Science of Language. 
This will -explain why ... I called [myth] a Disease of Lan- 
guage rather than of Thought. . . . Language and thought 
arc inseparable, and ... a disease of language is therefore 
the same as a disease of thought ... To represent the su- 



preme God as committing every kind of crime, as being 
deceived by men, as being angry with his wife and violent 
with his children, is surely proof of a disease, of an unusual 
condition of thought, or, to speak more clearly, of real mad- 
ness. . . . It is a case of mythological pathology. . . . 

"Ancient language is a difficult instrument to handle, par- 
ticularly for religious purposes. It is impossible in human 
language to express abstract ideas except by metaphor, and it 
is not too much to say that the whole dictionary of ancient 
religion is made up of metaphors. . . . Here is a constant 
source of misunderstandings, many of which have maintained 
their place in the religion and in the mythology of the an- 
cient world.” 1 

But to regard a fundamental human activity as a mere mon- 
strosity, as a sort of mental disease, can scarcely pass muster 
as an adequate interpretation of it. We need no such strange 
and farfetched theories in order to see that for the primitive 
mind myth and language are, as it were, twin brothers. Both 
are based on a very general and very early experience of 
mankind, an experience of a social rather than of a physical 
nature. Long before a child learns to talk it has discovered 
other and simpler means of communicating with other per- 
sons. The cries of discomfort, of pain and hunger, of fear or 
fright, which we find throughout the organic world begin to 
assume a new shape. They are no longer simple instinctive 
reactions, for they arc employed in a more conscious and 
deliberate way. When left alone the child demands by more or 
less articulate sounds the presence of its nurse or mother, and 
it becomes aware that these demands have the desired effect. 
Primitive man transfers this first elementary social experience 
to the totality of nature. To him nature and society are not 
only interconnected by the closest bonds; they form a coherent 
and indistinguishable whole. No clear-cut line of demarcation 
separates the two realms. Nature itself is nothing but a great 
society-the society of life. From this point of view we Pan * 

1. F. Max Muller, Contributions to the Science of Mythology (Lon- 
don, Longmans, Green & Co., 1897), 1 , 68 £., and Lectures on the 
Science of Religion (New York, Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1893}, pp. 
n8 f. 


easily understand tlie use and specific function of the magic 
word. The belief in magic is based upon a deep conviction 
of the solidarity of life . 2 To the primitive mind Ihe social 
power of the word, experienced in innumerable cases, becomes 
a natural and even supernatural force. Primitive man feels 
himself surrounded by all sorts of visible and invisible dan- 
gers. He cannot hope to overcome these dangers by merely 
physical means. To him the world is not a dead or mute thing; 
it can hear and understand. Hcncc if the powers of nature 
are called upon in the right way they cannot refuse their aid. 
Nothing resists the magic word, ectrmimt vel coelo possunt 
deiucm lunam. 

When man first began to realize that this confidence was 
vain-that nature was inexorable not because it was reluctant 
to fulfil his demands but because it did not understand his 
language-the discovery must have come to him as a shock. At 
this point he had to face a new problem which marked a 
turning point and a crisis in his intellectual and moral life. 
From that time an man must have found himself in a deep 
solitude, subject to feelings of utter loneliness and of absolute 
despair, He would scarcely have overcome these had he not 
developed a new spiritual force, which barred the way to 
magic but at the same lime opened another and more prom- 
ising road. All hope of subduing nature by the magic word 
had been frustrated, But as a result man began to see the 
relation between language and reality in a different light. 
The magic function of the word was eclipsed and replaced 
by its semantic function. The word is no longer endowed with 
mysterious powers; it no longer has an immediate physical or 
supernatural influence. It cannot change the nature of things 
and it cannot compel the will of gods or demons. Neverthe- 
less it is neither meaningless nor powerless, It is not simply a 
, flatus vacis, a mere breath of air. Yet the decisive feature is 
not its physical but its logical character. Physically the word 
may be declared to be impotent, but logically it is elevated 
to a higher, indeed to the highest rank. The Logos becomes the 

See above, Chap. 7, pp. 111-117. 



principle of the universe and the first principle of human 

* This transition took place in early Greek philosophy. 
Heraclitus still belongs to that class of Greek thinkers who in 
Aristotle's Metaphysics are referred to as the “ancient physi- 
ologists” ( hoi architioi physiolngot ] . His whole interest is con- 
centrated on the phenomenal world. He does not admit that 
above the phenomenal world, the world of “becoming,” 
there exists a higher sphere, an ideal or eternal order of pure 
being,” Yet he is not content with the mere fact of change; 
he seeks the principle of change. According to Heraclitus this 
principle is not to be found in a material thing. Not the 
material but the human world is the clue to a correct interpre- 
tation of the cosmic order. In this human world the faculty 
of speech occupies a central place, We must, therefore, under- 
stand what speech means in order to understand the “mean- 
ing" of the universe. If we fail to find this approach— the 
approach through the medium of language rather than 
through physical phenomena-we miss the gateway to philoso- 
phy. Even in Heraclitus’ thought the word, the Logos, is not 
&' merely anthropological phenomenon. It is not confined 
within the narrow limits of our human world, for it possesses 
universal cosmic truth. But instead of being a magic power 
the word is understood in its semantic and symbolic function. 
“Don’t listen to me,” writes Heraclitus, “but to the Word 
and confess that all things are one.” 

GEarly Greek thought thus passed from a philosophy of na- 
ture to a philosophy of language. But here it encountered new 
and grave difficulties. There is perhaps no more bewildeilhg 
and controversial problem than “the meaning of meaning.” 8 
Even in our own day linguists, psychologists, and philosophers 
entertain widely divergent views upon this subject. Ancient 
philosophy could not grapple directly with this intricate prob- 
lem in all its aspects. It could only give a tentative solution, 
This solution was based upon a principle which in early Greek 
thought was generally accepted and which appeared to be 
firmly established. All the different schools-the physiologists 

See C. K, Ogden and I, A. Richards, The Meaning of Meaning 
(1923; 5th ed. New York, 1938). 


as well as the dialecticians— started from the assumption that 
without an identity between the knowing subject and the 
reality known the fact of knowledge would be unaccountable*! 
Idealism and realism, although differing in the application of 
this principle, agreed in acknowledging its truth, Parmenides 
declared that we cannot separate being and thought, for they 
are one and the same. The nature philosophers understood 
and interpreted this identity in a strictly material sense. If we 
analyze man's nature we find the same combination of ele- 
ments as occurs everywhere in the physical world. The micro- 
cosm being an exact counterpart of the macrocosm makes 1 
knowledge of the latter possible. “For it is with earth,” says 
Empedocles, “that we see Earth, and Water with water; by 
air we See bright Air, by fire destroying Fire. By love do we 
see Love, and Hate by grievous hate.” 4 f ‘ 

Accepting this general theory, what is the “meaning oi 
meaning”? First and foremost meaning must be explained in 
terms of being; for being, or substance, is the most universal 
category which links and binds together truth and reality. 
word could not "mean” a thing if there were not at least a 
partial identity between the two. The connection between 
the symbol and its object must be a natural, not a merely 
conventional one. Without such a natural connection a worrlj 
of human language could not accomplish its task; it wouM 
become unintelligible, If we admit this presupposition,! 
which originates in a general theory of knowledge rather thai]' 
in a theory of language, we are immediately faced with tin 
onomatopoetic doctrine. This doctrine alone seems capaljj 
ofirridging the gap between names and things. On the Otlie; 
hand our bridge threatens to break down at our first attempt 
to use it. For Plato it was sufficient to develop the onomato) 
poetic thesis in all its consequences in order to refute it. In th; 
Platonic dialogue Krutylus Socrates accepts the thesis in ht 
ironical way. But his approval is only intended to destroy^ 
by its own inherent absurdity. Plato’s account of the theoij 
that all language originated in sound imitation ends in a tiaf 

4. Empedocles, Fragment 335. See John Burnet, Early Greek Pfi 
losophy (London and Edinburgh, A. St C. Black, 1892), Bk, II, p 



esty and caricature. Nevertheless the onomatopoctic thesis 
prevailed for many centuries. Even in recent literature it is 
Vf no means oblitcmtccl, though it no longer appears in the 
same naive forms as in Plato’s Kratylus. 

The obvious objection to this thesis is the fact that when 
analyzing the words of common speech we are in most cases 
completely at a loss to discover the pretended similarity be- 
tween sounds and objects. This difficulty could, however, be 
lemoved by pointing out that human language has from the 
Erst been subject to change and decay. Hence we cannot con- 
tent ourselves with its present state. We must trace our terms 
back to their origins if we are to detect the bond uniting 
them with their objects. From derivative words we must go 
.back to primary words; we must discover the etymon, the 
true and original form, of every term. According to this prin- 
ciple etymology became not on!y the center of linguistics but 
also one of the keystones of the philosophy of language. And 
the first etymologies used by Greek grammarians and philoso- 
phers suffered from no theoretical or historical scruples, No 
etymology based upon scientific principles appeared before 
fie Erst half of the nineteenth century . 5 Up to this time 
everything was possible, and the most fantastic and bizarre 
explanations were readily admitted. Besides the positive 
etymologies there were the famous negative ones of the type 
Incus a non lucendo. As long as these schemes held the field 
tie theory of a natural relation between narpes and things 
^speared to be philosophically justifiable and defensible. 

Tkt there were other general considerations which from the 
first militated against this theory. The Greek Sophists wS re 
in a sense the disciples of Heraclitus. In his dialogue 
Theaetetus Plato went so far as to say that the sophistic 
theory of knowledge had no claim to originality. He declared 
it to be an outgrowth and corollary of the Ileraclitian doctrine 
$ the “flux of all things." Yet there was an ineradicable dif- 
ference between Heraclitus and the Sophists. To the former 
'the word, the Logos, was a universal metaphysical principle. 
It possessed general truth, objective validity. But the Sophists 

gf Cf. A. F. Pott, Etymologische Forschungcn aus dem Gebiete der 
ui'dogermamschen Spraclien (1833 if.}. 

no longer admit that "divine woid" which Heraclitus held to 
be the oiigm and fiisl punciple of all things, of the cosmic 
and moral order. Anthropology, not metaphysics, plays tlnJ 
leading role in the theory of language. Man has become the 
center of the nmverse. According to the dictum of Protagoras, 
"man is the measme of all things, of those which are, that 
they are— and of those which are not, that they are not." To 
look for any explanation of language in tire world of physical 
tilings is, therefore, vam and useless. The Sophists had found# 
a new and much simpler approach to human speech. They 
were the first to treat linguistic and giammatical problems in 
a systematic way. Yet they were not concerned with these 
problems in a merely theoretical sense, A theory of language 
has other and more urgent tasks to accomplish. It has to teach , 
us how to speak and to act in our actual social and political 
world. In Athenian life of the fifth century language had be- j 
come an instrument for definite, concrete, practical purposes.’ 
It was the most powerful weapon in the great political strug- 
gles. Nobody could hope to play a leading role without this 
instrument. It was of vital importance to use it in tile right 
way and constantly to improve and sharpen it. To this end the’ 
Sophists created a new branch of knowledge. Rhetoric, not 
grammar or etymology, became their chief concern. In their, 
definition of wisdom (sopliia) rhetoric maintains a central 
position. All the disputes about the “truth" or “correctness" 
(orthotes) of terms and names became futile and superfluous. 
Names are not intended to express the nature of things. Th(& 
have no objective conelates. Their real task is not to describl 
things but to arouse human emotions; not to convey meiq| 
ideas or thoughts but to prompt men to certain actions. 

So far we have arrived at a threefold conception of the 
function and value of language; a mythological, a metapbysk 
cal, and a piagmabc one. But all these accounts appear in i 
sense beside the mark, for they all fail to note one of this 
most conspicuous features of language. The most elemental 
human utterances do not refer to physical things nor are they 
merely arbitrary signs. The alternative fihysei on or these! OS 
does not apply to them. They are “natural,” not “artificial! 
but they bear no relation to the nature of external objcctst'j 



They do not depend upon mere convention, upon custom or 
habit; they are much more deeply rooted. They are involun- 
tary expressions of human feelings, interjections and ejacula- 
tions. It was not an accident that this interjectional theory 
was introduced by a natural scientist, the greatest scientist 
among the Greek thinkers. Democritus was the first to pro- 
pound the thesis that human speech originates in certain 
(sounds of a merely emotional character. Later on the same 
yiew was upheld by Epicurus and Lucretius on the authority 
of Democritus. It had a permanent influence on language 
theory. As late as the eighteenth century it still appears in 
almost the same shape in thinkers like Vico or Rousseau. From 
the scientific point of view it is easy to understand the great 
( advantages of this interjectional thesis. Here, it seems, we no 
'Ijmger need to rely on speculation alone. We have uncovered 
some verifiable facts, and these facts are not restricted to the 
human sphere. Human speech can be reduced to a fundamen- 
tal instinct implanted by nature in all living creatures. Violent 
outcries— of fear, of rage, of pain or joy-are not a specific 
'property of man. We find them everywhere in the animal 
world, Nothing was more plausible than to trace the social 
fact of speech back to this general biological cause. If we 
accept the thesis of Democritus and his pupils and followers, 
semantics ceases to be a separate province; it becomes a branch 
of biology and physiology. 

And yet the interjectional theory could not reach maturity 
-■until biology itself had found a new scientific basis. It was not 
’Sough to connect human speech with certain biological facts. 

1 the cennection had to be grounded in a universal principle, 
(.Such a principle was provided by the theory of evolution. 
■■When Darwin’s book appeared it was hailed with the greatest 
' enthusiasm not merely by scientists and philosophers but also 
ay linguists. August Schleicher, whose first writings show him 
js have been an adherent and pupil Df Hegel, became a con- 
pert to Darwin . 6 Darwin himself had treated his subject, 
i strictly from the point of view of a naturalist. Yet his general 
method was easily applicable to linguistic phenomena, and 

6. See August Schleicher, Die Darwin’sche Tleorie un d die Sptach- 
L' ffiy nschaft (Weimar, 1873). 

1 5 ° 

even in this field he seemed to open up an unexplored path. 
In T he Expression of the Emotions in Man and Animals 
Darwin had shown that expressive sounds or acts are dictate^..] 
by certain biological needs and used according to definite 
biological rules. Approached from this angle the old riddle 
of the origin of language could be treated in a strictly empiri- 
cal and scientific manner. Human language ceased being “a 
state within the state" and became herewith a general natural 
gift. ^ 

There remained, however, a fundamental difficulty. The 
creators of the biological theories of the origin of language*' 
failed to see the wood for trees. They set out with the assump- 
tion that a direct path leads from interjection to speech. But 
this is to beg the question, not to solve it. It was not the 
mere fact hut the structure of human speech which called fcf ' 
an explanation. An analysis of this structure discloses a radical 
difference between emotional and propositional language. The 
two types are not on the same level. Even if it were possible 
to connect them genetically, the passage from one type to the! 
opposite must always remain logically a metabasis eis alloj- 
genos, a transition from one genus to another. So far as I cajjpi 
see, no biological theory ever succeeded in obliterating this 
logical and structural distinction. We have no psychological 
evidence whatever for the fact that any animal ever crossed 
the borderline separating propositional from emotional lan- 
guage, The so-called “animal language” always remains 
entirely subjective; it expresses various states of feeling but ij 
does not designate or describe objects. 7 On the other liaffflj 
there is no historical evidence that man, even in the lowest 
stages of his culture, ever was reduced to a merely emotional 
language or to the language of gestures. If we wish to pursue 
a strictly empirical method, we must exclude any such as- 
sumption as, if not quite improbable, at least dubious and 
hypothetical. (!) 

As a matter of fact a closer examination of these theorie^ 
always brings us to a point where the very principle on which 1 
they rest becomes questionable. After a few steps in this argu- 

7. See the views of W. Koehler and G. Rdvdsz quoted above, Chap, 

3, p. 48, 


• 5 1 

ment the defenders of these theories are forced to admit 
and to stress the same difference which they at first sight 
"seemed to deny or at least to minimize. To illustrate this 
fact I shall choose two concrete examples, the first taken from 
linguistics, the second from psychological and philosophical 
literature. Otto Jcspersen was perhaps the last modern linguist 
to retain a keen interest in the old problem of the origin of 
language. He did not deny that all the former solutions of 
• the problem had been very indequate; in fact he was con- 
vinced that he had discovered a new method which held forth 
promise of better success. “The method I recommend,” states 
Jespersen, "and which I am the first to employ consistently is 
to trace our modern languages as far back in time as history 
-and our materials will allow us. . . . If by this process we ar- 
rive finally at uttered sounds of such a description that they 
can no longer he called a real language, but something ante- 
cedent to language-why then the problem will have been 
solved; for transformation is something we can understand, 

; while a creation out of nothing never can be comprehended 
\by the human understanding. 1 ' According to this theory' such 
'a transformation took place when human utterances, which at 
first were nothing but emotional cries or perhaps musical 
phrases, were used as names. What originally had been a jum- 
ble of meaningless sounds became in this manner suddenly 
an instrument of thought For instance, a combination of 
sounds sung to a certain melody and employed in a chant of 
fc^fiumph over a defeated and slain foe could be changed into 
‘ > proper name for that peculiar event or even for the man 
who slew the enemy. And the development could nowqoro- 
ceed by a metaphorical transference of the expression to 
similar situations . 8 It is, however, precisely this "metaphorical 
transference" which contains our whole problem in a nutshell. 
Such a transference means that sound utterances, which 
^'hitherto had been mere outcries, involuntary discharges of 
' strong emotions, were performing an entirely new task. They 
were being used as symbols conveying a definite moaning. 

8, This theory was first propounded by Jespersen in Progress in Lan- 
guage (London, 1894). See also his Language, Its Nature, Develop- 
ment and Origin (London and New York, 1922), pp. 418, 437 S. 

Jespersen himself quotes an observation by Benfey that be- 
tween interjection and word there is a chasm wide enough to 
allow us to say that the interjection is the negation of lan-, 
guage; for interjections are employed only when one either 
cannot or will not speak. According to Jespersen language arose 
when “communicativeness took precedence of exclamative- 
ness.” This very step, however, is not accounted for but pre- 
supposed by this theory. 

The same criticism holds for the thesis developed in Grace 
de Laguna’s book, Speech. Its Function and Development. 
Here we find a much more detailed and elaborate statement 
of the problem. The rather fantastic concepts which we some- 
times find in Jespersen’s book are eliminated. The transition 
from cry to speech is described as a process of gradual ob : 
jectification. The primitive affective qualities attaching to the, 
situation as a whole become diversified and at the same time" 
distinguished from the perceived features of the situation. 

. . objects emerge, which are cognized rather than felt. 
... At the same time, this increased conditionality takes on 
systematic form . . . Finally, ... the objective order of real- 
ity appears and the world becomes truly known.” 9 This ob-J 
jectification and systematization is, indeed, the principal and 
most important task of human language. But I fail to see how 
a merely interjcctional theory can account for this decisive 
step. And in Professor de Laguna's account the gap between 
interjections and names has not been bridged: on the contrary 
here it stands out all the more sharply. It is a remarkable fact, 
that those authors who, generally speaking, have been incline® 
to Relieve that speech has developed from a state of mere in- 
terjections have been led to the conclusion that, after all, the 
difference between interjections and names is much gieater 
and much more conspicuous than their supposed identity. 
Gardiner, for example, begins with the statement that, be- 
tween human and animal language, there is an “essential ho-j 
mogeneity,” But in developing his theory he has to admi^ 
that between the animal utterance and human speech there 
is a difference so vital as almost to eclipse the essential ho- 

9. Gram de Laguna, Speech. Its Function and Development (New 
Hayen, Yale University Press, 19x7), pp. z6o f. 



mogeneily. 1 " The seeming similarity is in fact only a material 
connection which does not exclude, but, on the contrary, ac- 
centuates the formal, the functional heterogeneity. 

a The question of the origin of language has, at all 
times, exerted a strange fascination upon the human mind. 
With the first glimmerings of his intellect man began to 
ponder about this matter. In many mythical tales we are 
■ informed how man learned to talk from God himself or with 
the assistance of a divine teacher. This interest in the origin 
of language is easily understandable if we accept the first 
premises of mythical thought. Myth knows of no other mode 
of explanation than to go back to the remote past and to derive 
-file present state of the physical and human world from this 
^primeval stage of things. It is, however, surprising and para- 
doxical to find the same tendency still prevailing in philosophi- 
cal thought. Yet here for many centuries the systematic ques- 
tion was overshadowed by the genetic. It was thought to be a 
foregone conclusion that, the genetic question once solved, all 
'.the other problems would readily follow suit. From a general 
epistemological point of view, however, this was a gratuitous 
assumption. The theory of knowledge has taught us that we 
must always draw a sharp line of demarcation between genetic 
and systematic problems. Confusion of these two types is mis- 
leading and perilous. How is it that this methodological 
maxim, which in other branches of knowledge appeared to be 
^firmly established, was forgotten when dealing with linguistic 
problems? It would of course be of the greatest interest and 
importance to be in possession of the full historical evidence 
regarding language-to be able to answer the question whether 
all the languages of the world derive from a common stem or 
from different and independent roots, and to be able to trace 
step by step the development of individual idioms and lin- 
guistic types. Yet all this would not suffice to solve the fun- 
damental problems of a philosophy of language. In philosophy 
we cannot content ourselves with the mere flux of things and 
with the chronology of events. Here we must in a sense always 

-,io. Alan H. Gardiner, The Theory of Speech and Language (Oxford, 
1932), pp. 118 f. 


accept the Platonic definition according to which philosophi- 
cal knowledge is a knowledge of “being,” not of mere 
“becoming.” To he sure language has no being outside and. 
beyond time; it does not belong to the realm of eternal ideas. 
Change-phonetic, analogic, semantic change-is an essential 
element of language. Nevertheless the study of all these phe- 
nomena is not enough to make us understand the general 
function of language. For the analysis of every symbolic form 
we are dependent On historical data. The question as to what 
myth, religion, art, language “are” cannot be answered in a ' 
purely abstract way, by a logical definition. On the other hand - 
when studying religion, art, and language we always meet with 
general structural problems belonging to a different type of 
knowledge. These problems must be treated separately; they 
cannot he dealt with and they cannot be solved by merely’,' 
historical investigations. 

In the nineteenth century it was still a current and generally 
accepted opinion that history is the only clue to a scientific 
study of human speech. All the great achievements of lin- 
guistics came from scholars whose historical interest prevailed 
to such a degree as almost to preclude any other tendency of^ 
thought, jakob Grimm laid the first foundation lor a compara-' 
tive grammar of the Germanic languages. The comparative 
grammar of the Indo-European language was inaugurated by 
Bopp and Pott, and perfected by A. Schleicher, Kail Brug- 
mann, and B. Delbitick. The first to raise the question of the 
principles of linguistic history was Hermann Paul, He was 
fully aware of the fact that historical research alone cannaft 
solve all the problems of human speech. He insisted that 
hiswrical knowledge always stands in need of a systematic 
complement. To every branch of historical knowledge, he de- 
clared, there corresponds a science which deals with the gen- 
eral conditions under which the historical objects evolve and 
inquiries into those factors which remain invariable in all the 
changes of human phenomena . 11 The nineteenth century was 1 
'not only a historical but also a psychological century. It was, 
therefore, quite natural to assume, it even appeared self-evi- 

n. Hermann Paul, Prinzipien der Sprachgesdiichte (Halle, 1880), 
chap, i. English tians. by H. A, Strong (London, 1889). 



dent, that the principles of linguistic history were to be sought 
in the field of psychology. These were the two cornerstones of 
linguistic studies. “Paul and most of his contemporaries," says 
Leonard Bloomfield, "dealt only with Indo-European lan- 
guages and, what with their neglect of descriptive problems, 
refused to work with languages whose history was unknown. 
This limitation cut them off from a knowledge of foreign types 
of grammatical structure, which would have opened their eyes 
to the fact that even the fundamental features of Indo-Euro- 
pean grammar ... are hy no means universal in human 
speech. . . . Alongside the great stream of historical research, 
there ran, however, a small but accelerating current of general 
linguistic study. . . . Some students saw more and more 
clearly the natural relation between descriptive and historical 
studies. . . . The merging of these two streams of study, the 
historical-comparative and tire philosophical-descriptive, has 
made clear some principles that were not apparent to the great 
Indo-Europeanists of the nineteenth century ... All histori- 
cal study of language is based upon the comparison of two or 
more sets of descriptive data. It can be only as accurate and 
only as complete as these data permit it to be, In order to de- 
scribe a language one needs no historical knowledge whatever; 
in fact, the observer who allows such knowledge to affect his 
description, is bound to distort his data. Our descriptions must 
be unprejudiced, if they are to give a sound basis for compara- 
tive work.” 12 

This methodological principle had found its first and in a 
sense its classical expression in the work of a great linguist and 
a great philosophical thinker. Wilhelm von Humboldf took 
the first step toward classifying the languages of the world and 
reducing them to certain fundamental types. For this purpose 
he could not employ purely historical methods. The languages 
he studied were no longer solely the Indo-European types. His 
interest was truly comprehensive; it included the whole field 
of linguistic phenomena. He gave the first analytical descrip- » 
tion of the aboriginal American languages, utilizing the wealth 
of material which his brother, Alexander von Humboldt, had 

12. Bloomfield, Language (New York, Holt & Co., 1933), pp. 17 if* 


brought back from his exploratory travels on the American 
continent. In the second volume of his great work on the 
varieties of human speech 18 W. von Humboldt wrote the 
first comparative grammar of the Austroncsian languages, 
the Indonesian and Melanesian. Yet for this grammar no his- 
torical data were available, the history of these languages 
being completely unknown. Humboldt had to approach the 
problem from an entirely new angle and to pave his own way. 

Yet his methods remained strictly empirical; they were 
based on observations, not on speculation. But Humboldt was 
not content with the description of particular facts. He im- 
mediately drew from his facts very far-reaching general in- 
ferences. It is impossible, he maintained, to gain a true insight 
into the character and function of human speech so long as 
we think of it as a mere collection of "words.” The teal dif- 
ference between languages is not a difference of sounds or 
signs but one of "world-perspectives” ( Weltansichten ). A lan- 
guage is not simply a mechanical aggregate of terms. Splitting 
it up into words or terms means disorganizing and disintegrat- 
ing it. Such a conception is detrimental, if not disastrous, to 
any study of linguistic phenomena. The words and rules which 
according to our ordinary notions make up a language, Hum- 
boldt asserted, really exist ouly in the act of connected speech. 
To treat them as separate entities is “nothing but a dead prod- 
uct of our bungling scientific analysis.” Language must be 
looked upon as an energeia rather than as an ergon. It is not a 
ready-made thing but a continuous process; it is the ever- 
repeated labor of the human mind to utilize articulated 
sounds to express thought . 11 

Humboldt’s work was more than a notable advance in lin- 
guistic thought. It marked also a new epoch in the history 
of the philosophy of language. Humboldt was neither a scholar 
who specialized in particular linguistic phenomena nor a 
metaphysician like Schelling or Hegel. He followed the “criti- 

13. Berlin (1836-39). See Humboldt's Gesamnjelte ScJmffen (Ber- 
lin Academy), Vol. VII, Pt, I. 

14. Humboldt, op. cit„ pp. 46 f. A more detailed account of Hum- 
boldt’s theory is given in my Philosophic dei symbolischen Formen, 
1, 98 ft 



cal” method of Kant, not indulging in speculation as to the 
essence or the origin of language. The latter problem is never 
even mentioned in his work. It was the structural problems 
of language which came to the fore in his hook, That these 
problems cannot be solved by merely historical methods is 
now generally admitted. Scholars of different schools and work- 
ing in different fields are unanimous in stressing the fact that 
descriptive linguistics can never be rendered superfluous by 
historical linguistics, because the latter must always be based 
on the description of those stages of the development of lan- 
guage which are directly accessible to us . 15 From the point 
of view of the general history of ideas it is a very interesting 
and remarkable fact that linguistics, in this respect, under- 
went the same change as we find in other branches of knowl- 
edge. The former positivism was superseded by a new principle 
which we may call structuralism. Classical physics was con- 
vinced that, in order to discover the general laws of motion, 
we must always begin with the study of the movements of 
“material points.” Lagrange's Micanique analyiique was 
based on this principle. Later on the laws of the electro- 
magnetic field, as discovered by Faraday and Maxwell, tended 
to the opposite conclusion. It became clear that the electro- 
magnetic field could not be split up into individual points. An 
electron was no longer regarded as an independent entity with 
an existence of its own; it was defined as a limit-point in the 
field as a whole. Thus arose a new type of “field physics" 
which in many respects diverged from the former conception 
of classical mechanics. In biology wc find an analogous de- 
velopment. The new holistic theories, which have become 
prevalent since the beginning of the twentieth century, have 
gone back to the old Aristotelian definition of the organism. 
They have insisted that in the organic world “the whole is 
prior to the part.” These theories do not deny the facts of 
evolution but they can no longer interpret them in the same 
sense as did Darwin and the orthodox Darwinians . 16 As for 

15. See for instance Jespersen, The Philosophy of Grammar (New 
York, Holt & Co., 1924), pp. 30 f. 

16. See J. B. S. Haldane, The Causes of Evolution (New York and 
London, 1932). 

* 5 ® 

psychology, it had followed with a few exceptions the Humian 
way throughout the nineteenth century. The only method to 
account for a psychical phenomenon was to reduce it to its 
first elements. All complex facts were thought to be an ac- 
cumulation, an aggregate of simple sense data. Modern Gestalt 
psychology has criticized and destroyed this conception; it has 
thus paved the way to a new type of structural psychology. 

If linguistics now adopts the same method and concentrates 
more and more on structural problems, this does not of course 
mean that former views have lost anything in importance and 
interest. Yet instead of moving in a straight line, instead of 
being exclusively concerned with the chronological order of 
the phenomena of speech, linguistic research is describing an 
elliptical line having two different focal points, Some scholars 
went so far as to say that the combination of descriptive and 
historical views which was the distinctive mark of linguistics 
throughout the nineteenth century was, from a methodologi- 
cal viewpoint, a mistake. Ferdinand de Saussure declared in 
his lectures that the whole idea of a "historical grammar” 
would have to be given up. Historical grammar, he main- 
tained, is a hybrid concept. It contains two disparate elements 
which cannot be reduced to a common denominator and fused 
into an organic whole. According to de Saussure the study 
of human speech is not the subject matter of one science hut 
of two sciences. In such a study we always have to distinguish 
between two different axes, the “axis of simultaneity” and 
the "axis of succession.” Grammar by its nature and essence 
belongs to the former type. De Saussure drew a sharp line 
between In hngue and la parole. Language (la langue) is 
universal, whereas the process of speech (la parole), as a tem- 
poral process, is individual. Every individual has his own way 
of speaking. But in a scientific analysis of language we are not 
Concerned with these individual differences; vye are studying 
a social fact which follows general iules-rules quite inde- 
pendent of the individual speaker. Without such rules lan- 
guage could not accomplish its principal task; it could not be 
employed as a means of communication between all the mem- 
bers of the speaking community. "Synchronical” linguistics 
deals with constant structural relations; "diachronical” lin-. 



guistics deals with phenomena varying and developing in 
time. 17 The fundamental structural unity of language may 
be studied and tested in two ways. This unity appears both 
on the material and on the formal side, manifesting itself not 
only in the system of grammatical forms hut also in its sound 
system. The character of a language depends on both factors. 
But the structural problems of phonology were a much later 
discovery than those of syntax or morphology. That there is 
an order and consistency in the forms of speech is obvious 
and indubitable. The classification of these forms and their 
reduction to definite rules became one of the first tasks of a 
scientific grammar. At a very early period the methods for 
this study were brought to a high degree of perfection. Modem 
linguists still allude to Panini’s Sanskrit grammar, which dates 
from sometime between 350 and 250 B.C., as one of the 
greatest monuments of human intelligence. They insist that 
no other language to this day has been so perfectly described. 
The Greek grammarians made a careful analysis of the parts 
of speech which they found in the Greek language, and they 
were interested in all sorts of syntactical and stylistic matters. 
The material aspect of the problem, however, was unknown, 
and its importance remained unrecognized up to the begin- 
ning of the nineteenth century. Here we find the first attempts 
to deal with the phenomena of sound change in a scientific 
way. Modem historical linguistics began with an investigation 
of uniform phonetic correspondences. In 18)8 R. K. Rask 
showed that the words of the Germanic languages bear a 
regular formal relation in matters of sound to the words of 
other Indo-European languages. In his German grammar 
Jakob Grimm gave a systematic exposition of the correspond- 
ences of consonants between the Germanic and other Indo- 
European languages. These first observations became the basis 
of modern linguistics and comparative grammar. But they 
were understood and interpreted in a merely historical sense. 
It was from a romantic love of the past that Jakob Grimm Re- 
ceived his first and most profound inspiration. The same ro- 

17. See Ferdinand de Saussure's lectures published posthumously 
under the title, Corns de linguistique gdndrale (1915; ad ed. Paris, 

mantic spirit led Friedrich Schlegel to his discovery of the 
language and wisdom of India . 18 In the second half of the 
nineteenth century, however, the interest in linguistic studies 
was dictated by other intellectual impulses, and a materialistic 
interpretation began to predominate. The great ambition of 
the so-called “New Grammarians" was to prove that the meth- 
ods of linguistics were on a level with those of the natural 
sciences. If linguistics was to be regarded as an exact science 
it could not be content with vague empirical rules describing 
particular historical occurrences. It would have to discover 
laws which in their logical form were comparable to the 
general laws of nature. The phenomena of phonetic change ap- 
peared to prove the existence of such laws. The New Gram- 
marians denied that there was such a thing as a sporadic sound 
change. Every phonetic change according to them follows in- 
violable rules. Hence the task of linguistics is to trace back all 
the phenomena of human speech to this fundamental stra- 
tum: the phonetic laws which are necessary and admit to no 
exceptions . 11 

Modern structuralism, as developed in the works of 
Trubetzkoy and in the Tmaux iu Cetcle Linguistique de 
Prague, approached the problem from a quite different angle. 
It did not give up hope of finding a “necessity” in the phenom- 
ena of human speech; on the contrary, it emphasized this 
necessity. But for structuralism the veiy concept of necessity 
had to be redefined, and understood rather in a teleological 
than in a merely causal sense. Language is not simply an 
aggregate of sounds and words; it is a system. On the other 
liandrits systematic order cannot be described in terms of 
physical or historical causality. Every individual idiom has a 
structure of its own both in a formal and in a material sense. 
If we examine the phonemes of different languages we find 
divergent types which cannot be subsumed under a uniform 
and rigid scheme, In the choice of these phonemes different 
languages exhibit their own peculiar characteristics. Neverthe- 

18. uber die Sprache und Weisheit der Inder (1808). 

19. This program, for instance, was developed by H. Osthoff and K. 
Brugmann in Morphologische Untersuchungen (Leipzig, 1878). For 
details see Bloomfield, op cit., chaps, i, xx, xxi. 



less n strict connection can always be shown to exist among 
the phonemes of a given language. This connection is relative, 
not absolute; it is hypothetical, not apodictic, We cannot de- 
duce it a priori from general logical rules; we have to rely 
on our empirical data. Yet even these data show an inner 
coherence. Once we have found some fundamental data we 
are in a position to derive from them other data which are 
invariably connected with them. “11 faudrait etudicr,” writes 
V. Brondal, formulating the program of this new structural- 
ism, "les conditions de la structure linguistique, distinguer 
dans les phonologiques et morphologiques ce qui est 
possible de ce qui est impossible, le contingent du nec- 
essaire.” 20 

If we accept this view, even the material basis of human 
speech, even the sound phenomena themselves, must be stud- 
ied in a new way and under a different aspect. As a matter of 
fact we can no longer admit that there is a merely material 
basis. The distinction between form and matter proves arti- 
ficial and inadequate. Speech is an indissoluble unity which 
cannot be divided into the two independent and isolated fac- 
tors, form and matter. It is in just this principle that the dif- 
ference lies between the new phonology and former types of 
phonetics. What we study in phonology are not physical but 
significant sounds. Linguistics is not interested in the nature 
of sounds but in their semantic function. The positivistic 
schools of the nineteenth century were convinced that phonet- 
r ics and semantics required separate study according to dif- 
- ferent methods, Tire speech-sounds were regarded as mere 
physical phenomena which could he described, indeed had to 
be described, in terms of physics or physiology. From 
the general methodological point of view of the New Gram- 
marians such a conception was not only understandable but 

20. V, Brondal, “Structure et variability des systbme morphalo- 
giques,” Scienfia (Aofit, 1935), p. 119. For a detailed account ot the 
problems and methods of modern linguistic structuralism see the arti- 
cles published in Travaux du Cercle Linguistique de Prague (1929 
ft.); especially H. F. Pos, “Perspectives du structuralisms, ’’ Travaux 
(1929), pp. 71 if. A general survey of the history of structuralism has 
been given by Roman Jahobson, “La Scuola Linguistica di Praga,” 
■-'La cuitura (Anno XII), pp. 633 ff. 


necessary. For their fundamental thesis— the thesis that pho- 
netic laws admit of no exception-was based upon the assump- 
tion that phonetic change is independent of nonphonetic fac- 
tors. Since sound change is nothing but a change in the habit 
of articulation-it was thought— it must affect a phoneme at 
every occurrence regardless of the nature of any particular 
linguistic form in which the phoneme happens to occur. This 
dualism has disappeared from recent linguistics. Phonetics is 
no longer a separate field hut has now become part and parcel 
of semantics itself. For the phoneme is not a physical unit 
but a unit of meaning. It has been defined as a “minimum- 
unit nf distinctive sound-feature.” Among the gross acoustic 
features of any utterance there are certain features which are 
significant; for these are used to express differences of meaning 
whereas others are nondistinctive. Every language has its sys- 
tem of phonemes, of distinctive sounds. In Chinese the change 
in the pitch of a sound is one of the most important means of 
changing the meaning of words, whereas in other languages 
such a change is without significance . 21 From the indefinite 
multitude of passible physical sounds every language selects 
a limited number of sounds as its phonemes. But the selection 
is not made at random, for the phonemes make up a coherent 
whole. They can be reduced to general types, to certain pho- 
netic patterns . 22 These phonetic patterns seem to be among 
the most persistent and characteristic features of language. 
Sapir emphasizes the fact that every language has a strong 
tendency to keep its phonetic pattern intact: “We shall as- 
cribe -the major concordances and divergences in linguistic 
form-phonetic pattern and morphology-to the autonomous 
drift of language, not to the complicating effect of single, 
diffused features that cluster now this way, now that. Lan- 
guage is probably the most self-contained, the most massively 

IK Among the languages of the Indo-European family Swedish is, 
SO far as I know, the only one in which the pitch of a tone or the 
accent has a definite semantic function. In some Swedish words the 
meaning may be completely changed by the acuteness or graverress 
of the sound. 

ja. For details see Bloomfield, op. dt., especially chaps, v. and vi. 


resistant of all social phenomena. It is easier to kill it off than 
to disintegrate its individual form.” 53 
r It is, however, very difficult to answer the question as to 
what this "individual form" of a language really means. When 
confronted with this question we are always on the horns of 
a dilemma. We have two extremes to avoid, two radical solu- 
tions, which are both in a sense inadequate. If the thesis that 
every language has its individual form were to imply that it 
is needless to look for any common features in human speech, 
wc should have to admit that the mere thought of a philosophy 
of language is a castle in the air. But what is open to objection 
from an empirical point of view is not so much the existence 
as the clear statement of these common features. In Greek 
philosophy the very term "Logos" always suggested and sup- 
ported the idea of a fundamental identity between the act of 
speech and the act of thought. Grammar and logic were con- 
ceived as two different branches of knowledge with the same 
subject matter. Even modem logicians whose systems have 
greatly deviated from the classical Aristotelian logic have still 
been of the same opinion. John Stuart Mill, the founder of 
an “inductive logic," asserted that grammar is the most ele- 
mentary part of logic because it is the beginning of the analy- 
sis of the thinking process. According to Mill the principles 
and rules of grammar arc the means by which the forms of 
language are made to correspond with the universal forms of 
thought. But Mill was not content with this statement. He 
f even assumed that a particular part-of-speech system-a sys- 
tem which had been deduced from Latin and Greek grammar 

23. Sapir, Language, p. 220. For the difference between "phonetics" 
and "phonology” see Trubetzkoy, "La phonologie actnelle,” in Jo ur- 
nal de psychologic (Paris, 193;), VoL XXX. According to Trubetz- 
koy it is the task of phonetics to study the material factors of the 
sounds of human speech, the vibrations of the air, corresponding to 
different sounds or sound-producing movements of the speaker. 
Phonology, instead of studying the physical sounds, studies tire 
“phonemes," that is to say, the constitutive elements of linguistic 
meaning, From the viewpoint of phonology the sound is only "the 
material symbol of the phoneme” The phoneme itself is “imma- 
terial” since meaning is not describable in terms of physics or physi- 


-had si general and objective validity. The distinctions be- 
tween the various parts of speech, between the cases of nouns, 
the modes and tenses of verbs, and the functions of participles, 
were believed by Mill to be distinctions in thought and not 
merely in words. "The structure of every sentence," he de- 
clares, “is a lesson in logic.” 2< The advancement of linguistic 
research made this position more and more untenable. For it 
came generally to be recognized that the system of the parts 
of speech is not of a fixed and uniform character but varies 
from one language to another. It was observed, moreover, that 
there are many features even of those languages which are 
derived from the Latin which cannot be adequately expressed 
in the usual terms and categories of Latin grammar. Students 
of French often stressed the fact that French grammar would 
have assumed a quite different shape if it had not been written 
by the disciples of Aristotle. They maintained that the ap- 
plication of the distinctions of Latin grammar to English or 
French had resulted in many grave errors and had proved to 
he a serious obstacle to the unprejudiced description of lin- 
guistic phenomena. 25 Many grammatical distinctions which 
we think fundamental and necessary lose their value or at 
least become very uncertain as soon as we examine languages 
other than those of the Indo-European family. That there must 
exist a definite and unique system of the parts of speech, 
which is to be regarded as a necessary constituent of rational 
speech and thought, has turned out to bean illusion. 20 

All this does not necessarily prove that we must give up the 
old concept of a grammaire generate et raisonnee, a general 
grammar based on rational principles. But we must redefine 
this concept and we must formulate it in a new sense. To 
stretch all languages upon the Procrustean bed of a single 
system of the parts of speech would be a vain attempt. Many 
modern linguists have gone so far as to warn us against the 

H- The following paragraph is based on my article, “The Influence 
of Language upon the Development of Scientific Thought,” Journal 
of Philosophy, XXXIX, No, 12 (June, 1942), 309-327, 

25, See F. Brunot, La pensde et la langue (Paris, 1922) . 

26. For more details see Bloomfield, op. cit., pp. 6 If., and Sapir, op. 
cit„ pp. 124 (I. 


very term “general grammar,” thinking that it represents 
rather an idol than a scientific ideal. 27 Such an uncompromis- 
itfely radical attitude has not, however, keen shared by all 
students of the field. Serious efforts have been made to main- 
tain and defend the conception of a philosophical grammar. 
Otto Jespersen wrote a book especially devoted to the philoso- 
phy of grammar in which he tried to prove that, beside or 
ibove or behind the syntactic categories which depend on the 
Structure of each language as it is actually found, there are 
s.orne categories which are independent of the more or less 
accidental facts of existing languages. They are universal in 
that they are applicable to all languages. Jespersen proposed 
ailing these categories “notional," and he considered it the 
»,&immarian’s task in each case to investigate the relation be- 
Aeen the notional and the syntactic categories. The same 
view has been expressed by other scholars, as, for instance, 
Hjclmstev and Brondal. 28 According to Sapir every language 
contains certain necessary and indispensable categories side by 
s^side with others that are of a more accidental character. 29 The 
■tjdea of a general or philosophical grammar is, therefore, by no 
Weans invalidated by the progress of linguistic research, al- 
though we can no longer hope to realize such a grammar by the 
simple means that were employed in former attempts. Human 
speech has to fulfil not only a universal logical task but also 
a social task which depends on the specific social conditions 
of the speaking community. Hence we cannot expect a real 
jfentity, a one-to-oaie correspondence between grammatical 
Mid logical forms. An empirical and descriptive analysis of 
grammatical forms sets itself a different task and leads to otter 
results than that structural analysis which, for instance, is 
given in Carnap's work on the Logical Syntax of Language. 

3 In order to find a clue of Ariadne to guide us through 
She complicated and baffling labyrinth of human speech we 

57. See, for instance, VendrySs, be kngage (Paris, lijzx), p. 193. 

28. See Hjelmstev, Principes de grammaire gdndrate (Copenhagen, 
1928), Brondal, Ordklassame. {R£sum£: Les patties du discours, 
partes orationis, Copenhagen, 1928.) 

29. Sapir, op. cit., pp, 124 ff. 


may proceed in a twofold manner. We may attempt to find a 
logical and systematic or a chronological and genetic order. 
In the second case we try to trace the individual idioms an$ 
the various linguistic types back to a former comparatively 
simple and amorphous stage. Attempts of this sort were often 
made by linguists of the nineteenth century when the opinion 
became current that human speech, before it could attain its 
present form, had had to pass through a state in which there 
were no definite syntactical or morphological forms. Lan-j! 
guages at first consisted of simple elements, of monosyllabic 
roots. Romanticism favored this view. A. W. Scblegel pro- 
pounded a theory according to which language developed from 
a former unorganized amorphous state. From this state it 
passed in a fixed order to other, more advanced stages-to an 
isolating, an agglutinating, a flexional stage. Tire flexional la^j 
guages are according to Schlegel the last step in this evolution;) 
they are the really organic languages. A thorough descriptive 
analysis has in most cases destroyed the evidence on which 
these theories were based. In the case of Chinese, which was 
usually cited as an example of a language consisting of mono-j 
syllabic roots, it could he made to appear probable that its! 
present isolating stage was preceded by a former flexional 
stage . 30 We know of no language devoid of formal or struc-j 
tural elements, although the expression of formal relations^ 
such as the difference between subject and object, between 
attribute and predicate, varies widely from language to Ian 
guage. Without form language has the appearance of beiirfy 
net merely a highly questionable historical construct but-s 
contradiction in terms. The languages of the most uncivilizeil 
nations are by no means formless; on the contrary they exhibif. 
in most cases a very complicated structure. A. Meillet, a mod- 
ern linguist who possessed a most comprehensive knowledge of : 
the languages of the world, declared that no known idiom- 
gives us the slightest idea of what primitive language may hav* 
been, All forms of human speech are perfect in so far as the;( 
succeed in expressing human feelings and thoughts in a deal 
and appropriate manner. The so-called primitive languages an 

30. See B. Karlgren, "Le Proto-Cbinois, langue flexionelle,” Journal ' 
asiatique (1901). 


as much in congruity with the conditions of primitive civili- 
zation and with the general tendency of the primitive mind as 
Sfar own languages are with the ends of our refined and sophis- 
ticated culture. In the languages of the Bantu family, for in- 
stance, every substantive belongs to a definite class, and every 
such class is characterized by its special prefix. These prefixes 
Jo not appear only in the nouns themselves but have to be re- 
peated, in accordance with a very complicated system of con- 
cords and congruences, in all other parts of the sentence which 
refer to the noun . 31 

1 The variety of individual idioms and the heterogeneity of 
linguistic types appear in a quite different light depending on 
whether they are looked at from a philosophical or from a 
^scientific viewpoint. The linguist rejoices in this variety; he 
(Bunges into the ocean of human speech without hoping to 
sound its real depth. In all ages philosophy has moved in the 
opposite direction. Leibniz insisted that without a C hitracter- 
iitica generalis wc shall never find a Scientia generate. Mod- 
em symbolic logic follows the same tendency. But even if this 
(jiSsk were accomplished, a philosophy of human culture would 
Kill have to face the same problem. In an analysis of human 
culture we must accept the facts in their concrete shape, in 
all their diversity and divergence. The philosophy of language 
is here confronted with the same dilemma as appears in the 
study of every symbolic form. The highest, indeed the only, 
task of all these forms is to unite men. But none of them can 
g about this unity without at the same time dividing and 
orating men. Tims what was intended to secure the har- 
Siony of culture becomes the source of the deepest discords 
and dissensions. This is the great antinomy, the dialectic of 
the religious life . 92 The same dialectic appears in human 
speech. Without speech there would be no community o £ 
men. Yet there is no more serious obstacle to such community 
|$an the diversity of speech. Myth and religion refuse to 
'regard this diversity as a necessary and unavoidable fact. They 
[attribute it rather to a fault or guilt of man than to his original 

51. For further details see C. Mcinhof, Grandziige einer vergleichen- 
jdgi Grammatil; der Bantu-Sprachen (Berlin, 1906) . 
jsf'See above, Chap. 7, p. 99. 


constitution and the nature of things. In many mythologies we 
find striking analogies to the Biblical tale of the Tower of 
Babel. Even in modern times, man has always retained a dee?" 
longing for that Golden Age in which mankind was still in 
possession of a uniform language. He looks back at his prime- 
val state as at a lost paradise. Nor did the old dream of a 
lingua Adamica-ai the “real" language of the first ancestors 
of man, a language which did not consist merely of conven- 
tional signs but which expressed rather the very nature and* 
essence of things-vanish completely even in the realm of 
philosophy. The problem of this lingua Adamica continued 
to be seriously discussed by the philosophical thinkers and 
mystics of the seventeenth century. 38 

Yet the true unity of language, if there is such a unity; 
cannot be a substantial one; it must rather be defined as tj 
functional unity. Such a unity does not presuppose a material 
Of formal identity, Two different languages may represent op- 
posite extremes both with respect to their phonetic systems 
and to their parts-of-speech systems. This does not prevent 
them from accomplishing the same task in the life ojj 
the speaking community. The important thing here is not thi 
variety of means but their fitness for and congruity with the 
end. We may think that this common end is attained more 
perfectly in one linguistic type than in another. Even Humi 
boldt, who, generally speaking, was loath to pass judgment on 
the value of particular idioms, still regarded the flexional lan< 
guages as a sort of paragon and model of excellence. To hi' l i 
the flexional form was die einzig g esetzmdssige Form, the 01V1* 
form which is entirely consistent and follows strict rules. s 1 
Modern linguists have warned us against such judgments) 
Urey tell us that we have no common and unique standard 
for estimating the value of linguistic types. In comparing types 
it may appear that the one has definite advantages over tb^ 
other, but a closer analysis usually convinces ns that what wt 
term the defects of a certain type may be compensated and 

53. See, for instance, Leibniz, Nouveaux essais sur 1 ’entendement 
human!, Bk. Ill, chap, ii. 

34. Humboldt, op. cit,, VII, Ft. II, 162, 


counterbalanced by other merits. If we wish to understand 
language, declares Sapir, we must disabuse our minds of pre- 
tarred values and accustom ourselves to look upon English 
and Hottentot with the same cool yet interested detach- 
ment. 05 

If it were the task of human speech to copy or imitate the 
given or ready-made order of things we could scarcely main- 
tain any such detachment. We could not avoid the conclusion 
Ifiiat, after all, one of two different copies must he the better; 
that the one must he nearer to, the other farther from, the 
original Yet if we ascribe to Speech a productive and construc- 
tive rather than a merely reproductive function, we shall judge 
quite differently. In this case it is not the "work" of language 
^ut its "energy" which is of paramount importance. In order 
,5t> measure this energy one must study the linguistic process 
itself instead of simply analyzing its outcome, its product, 
and final results. 

Psychologists are unanimous in emphasizing that without 
insight into the true nature of human speech our knowledge 
bf the development of the human mind would remain per- 
functory and inadequate. There is, however, still considerable 
uncertainty as to the methods of a psychology of speech. 
Whether we study the phenomena in a psychological or 
phonetic laboratory or rely on merely introspective methods 
we invariably derive the same impression that these phe- 
nomena are so evanescent and fluctuating that they defy all 
»fforts at stabilization. In what, then, consists that fundamen- 
il difference between the mental attitude which we may 
scribe to a speechless creature-a human being before the 
acquisition of speech or an animal— and that other frame of 
mind which characterizes an adult who has fully mastered his 
mother tongue? 

^ Curiously enough it is easier to answer this question on the 
^asis of abnormal instances of speech development. Our con- 
sideration of the cases of Helen Keller and Laura Bridgman 88 
illustrated the fact that with the first understanding of the 

35. Sapir, op. eft., p. 130. 
jW'See above, Chap. 3, pp. 53-59. 

17 ° 

symbolism of speech a real revolution tabes place in the life 
of the child. From this point on his whole personal and in- 
tellectual life assumes an entirely new shape. Roughly speak- 
ing, this change may he descrihed by saying that the child 
passes from a more subjective state to an objective state, from 
a merely emotional attitude to a theoretical attitude. The 
same change may be noted in the life of every normal child, 
though in a much less spectacular way. The child himself has 
a clear sense of the significance of the new instrument for hi$' 
mental development. He is not satisfied with being taught in a* 
purely receptive manner but takes an active share in the proct 1 
ess of speech which is at the same time a process of progres- 
sive objectification. The teachers of Helen Keller and Laura 
Bridgman have told us with what eagerness and impatience 
both children, once they had understood the use of name® 
continued to ask for the particular names of all the objects in' 
their environment. 31 This, too, is a general feature in the 
normal development of speech. "By the beginning of the 
twenty-third month,” says D. R. Major, "the child had 
developed a mania for going about naming tilings, as if to telfi* 
others their names, or to call our attention to the things he wa^ 
examining. He would look at, point toward, or put his hand 
on an article, speak its name, then look at his companions.” is 
Such an attitude would not be understandable were it not for 
the fact that the name, in the mental growth of the child, has 
a function of the first importance to perform. If a child when 
learning to talk had simply to learn a certain vocabulary, SI 
he only had ta impress on his mind and memory a great mat* 
df artificial and arbitrary sounds, this would be a purely mei 
chanical process. It would he very laborious and tiresome, ancj 
would require too great conscious effort for the child to maker 
without a certain reluctance since what he is expected to doj 
would be entirely disconnected from actual biological needtj 
The “hunger for names” which at a certain age appears il? 
every normal child and which has been described by all stu - [ 

37. See above, Chap. 3, pp. 54-55. 

38. David R. Major, First Steps in Mental Growth (New York, Mac- 
millan, 1906), pp. 321 f. 



dents of child psychology 80 proves the contrary. It reminds us 
that we are here confronted with a quite different problem. 
Sy learning to name things a child does not simply add a list 
of artificial signs to his previous knowledge of ready-made em- 
pirical objects. He learns rather to form the concepts of those 
objects, to come to terms with the objective world. Henceforth 
the child stands on firmer ground. His vague, uncertain, 
. fluctuating perceptions and his dim feelings begin to assume 
H new shape. They may be said to crystallize around the name 
jas a fixed center, a focus of thought. Without the help of the 
name every new advance made in the process of objectification 
would always run the risk of being lost again in the next 
moment. The first names of which a child makes conscious 
\ht may be compared to a stick by the aid of which a blind 
than gropes his way. And language, taken as a whole, becomes 
the gateway to a new world. All progress here opens a new 
perspective and widens and enriches our concrete experience. 
Eagerness and enthusiasm to talk do not originate in a mere 
^desire for learning or using names; they mark the desire for 
^the detection and conquest of an objective world . 40 

We can still when learning a foreign language subject our- 
selves to an experience similar to that of the child. Here it is 
not sufficient to acquire a new vocabulary or to acquaint our- 
selves with a system of abstract grammatical rules, All this is 
necessary but it is only the first and less important step. If we 
tlo not learn to think in the new language all our efforts remain 
“'Juitless. In most cases we find it extremely difficult to fulfil 
iiis requirement. Linguists and psychologists have often 
raised the question as to how it is possible for a child by Ids 
own efforts to accomplish a task that no adult can ever perform 
in the same way or as well. We can perhaps answer this 
jauzzling question by looking back at our former analysis, in a 
Ip ter and more advanced state of our conscious life we can 
jjirever repeat the process which led to our first entrance into 

I 39. See, for instance, Clara and William Stern, Die Kinderspiache 
' (Leipzig, 1907), pp. 175 S. 

40. For a more detailed discussion of this problem see Cassirer, "Le 
Lineage et la construction du rr.ondc dcs objets," journal de psy- 
'i^Sogie, XXX” Annie (1935), pp. 18-44. 

1 7 2 

the world of human speech. In the freshness, in the agility 
and elasticity of early childhood this process had a quite differ- 
ent meaning. Paradoxically enough the real difficulty consist^-' 
much less in the learning of the new language than in the 
forgetting of a former one. We are no longer in the mental 
condition of the child who for the first time approaches a 
conception of the objective world. To the adult the objective 
world already has a definite shape as a result of speech activity, 
which has in a sense molded all our other activities. Our 
perceptions, intuitions, and concepts have coalesced with the 
terms and speech forms of our mother tongue, Great efforts 
are required to release the bond between words and things. 
And yet, when we set about to learn a new language, we have 
to make such efforts and to separate the two elements. Ovcri 
coming this difficulty always marks a new important step iij 
the learning of a language. When penetrating into the “spirit” 
of a foreign tongue we invariably have the impression of ap- 
proaching a new world, a world which has an intellectual 
structure of its own. It is like a voyage of discovery in an alien 
land, and the greatest gain from such a voyage lies in our 
having learned to look upon our mother tongue in a new 1 
light. “Wer fremde Sprachen nicht kennt, weiss nichts von 
seiner eigenen,” said Goethe . 41 So long as we know no for- 
eign languages we are in a sense ignorant of our own, for we 
fail to see its specific structure and its distinctive features. A 
comparison of different languages shows us that there are no 
exact synonyms. Corresponding terms from two languages 
seldom refer to the same objects or actions. They cover diffeiU 
eat fields which interpenetrate and give us many-colored 
views and varied perspectives of our experience. 

This becomes especially clear if we consider the methods ofi 
classification employed in different languages, particularly in 
those of divergent linguistic types. Classification is one of the 
fundamental features of human speech. The very act of dej 
nomination depends on a process of classification. To give a 
name to an object or action is to subsume it under a certain 
class concept. If this subsumption were once and for all pre- 

41. Goethe, Spriiche in Prosa, “Werke," XLII, Pt, II, 118. 



scribed by the nature of things, it would be unique and 
uniform. Yet the names which occur in human speech cannot 
% interpreted in any such invariable maimer. They are not 
designed to refer to substantial things, independent entities 
which exist by themselves. They are determined rather, by 
human interests and human purposes. But these interests are 
not fixed and invariable. Nor are the classifications to be 
found in human speech made at random; they are based on 
■certain constant and recurring elements in our sense experi- 
ence. Without such recurrences there would be no foothold, 
no point of support, for our linguistic concepts. But the com- 
bination or separation of perceptual data depends upon the 
free choice of a frame of reference. There is no rigid and pre- 
established scheme according to which our divisions and 
Subdivisions might once for all be made. Even in languages 
closely akin and agreeing in their general structure we do not 
find identical names. As Humboldt pointed out, the Greek 
and Latin terms for the moon, although they refer to the same 
object, do not express the same intention or concept. Tile 
‘[Greek term (men) denotes the function of the moon to 
’“measure” time: the Latin term {lima, luc-m) denotes the 
moon's lucidity or brightness. Thus we have obviously isolated 
and focused attention on two very different features of the 
object. But the act itself, the process of concentration and 
condensation, is the same. The name of an object lays no 
claim upon its nature; it is not intended to be physei on, to 
•five us the truth of a thing. The function of a name is always 
jmited to emphasizing a particular aspect of a thing, and it is 
precisely this restriction and limitation upon which the va^e 
of the name depends. It is not the function of a name to 
refer exhaustively to a concrete situation, hut merely to single 
out and dwell upon a certain aspect. The isolation of this 
aspect is not a negative but a positive act. For in the act of 
[denomination we select, out of the multiplicity and diffusion 
of our sense data, certain fixed centers of perception. These, 
centers are not the same as in logical oi scientific Brought. 
The terms of ordinary speech are not to he measured by the 
same standards as those in which we express scientific con- 
irapts, As compared with scientific terminology the words of 

1 74 

common speech always exhibit a certain vagueness; almost 
without exception they are so indistinct and ill-defined as not 
to stand the test of logical analysis. But notwithstanding thifp 
unavoidable and inherent defect our everyday terms and 
names are the milestones on the road which leads to scientific 
concepts; it is in these terms that we receive our first objective 
or theoretical view of the world. Such a view is not simply 
“given"; it is the result of a constructive intellectual effort 
which without the constant assistance of language could not^ 
attain its end. 

This end is not, however, to be reached at any one time.' 
The ascent to higher levels of abstraction, to more general 
and comprehensive names and ideas, is a difficult and labori- 
ous task. The analysis of language provides us with a wealth, 
of materials for studying the character of the mental processes^ 
which finally lead to the accomplishment of this task. Human 
speech evolves from a first compaiatively concrete state to a 
more abstract state. Our first names are concrete ones. They 
attach themselves to the apprehension of particular facts or 
actions. All the shades or nuances that we find in our concrete ? 
experience arc described minutely and circumstantially, but}, 
they are not subsumed under a common genus. Hammci- 
Purgstall has written a paper in which he enumerates the 
various names for the camel in Arabic. There are no less than I 
five to six thousand terms used in describing a camel; yet' 
none of these gives us a general biological concept. All express 
concrete details concerning the shape, the size, the colot, ttej 
age, and the gait of the animal . 42 These divisions are stiM 
nary far from any scientific or systematic classification, hut 
serve quite different purposes. In many languages of aboriginal 
American tribes we find an astounding variety of terms for a 
particular action, for instance for walking or striking. Such 
terms bear to each other rather a relation of juxtaposition 
than of subordination, A blow with the fist cannot be dS 
■ scribed with the same term as a blow with the palm, and a’ 
blow with a weapon requires another name than one with a 

42. See Hammer-Purgstall, Academy of Vienna, Philosophical-histori- 
cal class, Vols, VI and VII (1855 f.). 



whip or rod , 48 In liis description of the Bakairi language~an 
idiom spoken by an Indian tribe in Central Brazil-Karl von 
s rlcn Steinen relates that each species of parrot and palm tree 
has its individual name, whereas there exists no name to 
express the genus "parrot" or “palm.” “The Bakairi,” he as- 
serts, “attach themselves so much to the numerous particular 
notions that they take no interest in the common character- 
istics. They are choked in the abundance of the material and 
cannot manage it economically. They have only small coin 
but in that they must be said to be excessively rich rather 
than poor ,” 14 As a matter of fact there exists no uniform 
measure for the wealth or poverty of a given idiom. Every 
classification is directed and dictated by special needs, and it 
■is clear that these needs vary according to the different con- 
'ditions of man’s social and cultural life. In primitive civiliza- 
tion the interest in the concrete and particular aspects of 
things necessarily prevails. Human speech always conforms to 
and is commensurate with certain forms of human life. An 
interest in mere “universals” is neither possible nor necessary 
in an Indian tribe. It is enough, and it is more important, to 
■distinguish objects by certain visible and palpable character- 
istics, In many languages a round thing cannot be treated in 
the same way as a square or oblong thing, for they belong to 
different genders which arc distinguished by special linguistic 
means, such as the use of prefixes. In languages of the Bantu 
family we find no less than twenty gender classes of nouns. 
Jn languages of aboriginal American tribes, as for instance in 
'ijilgonquian, some objects belong to an animate gender, others 
to an inanimate gender. Even here it is easy to understand 
that and why this distinction, from the viewpoint of the primi- 
tive mind, must appear to be of particular interest and of 
vital importance. It is indeed a much more characteristic and 
striking difference than that which is expressed in our abstract 
-logical class names. The same slow passage from concrete to 
.abstract names can also be studied in the denomination of_ 

43. For further details see Philosophic der synrbolischen Former), I, 

J 57 ®- 

44; K. von den Steinen, Unter den Naturvijlkem Zentral-BrasiUens, 


the qualities of things. In many languages we find an abun- 
dance of color names. Each individual shade of a given color 
has its special name, whereas our general terms-blue, greeny 
red, and so on-are missing. Color names vary according to the 
nature of the objects: one word for gray may, for example, be 
used in speaking of wool or geese, another of horses, another 
of cattle, and still another when speaking of the hair of men 
and certain other animals. 45 The same holds good for the 
category of number: different numerals are required for re-, 
ferring to different classes of objects. 40 The ascent to universal 
concepts and categories appears, therefore, to be very slow in 1 
the development of human speech; but each new advance in 
this direction leads to a more comprehensive survey, to a 
better orientation and organization of our perceptual world.- 

9 Art 

1 Beauty appears to be one of the most clearly known 
of human phenomena. Unobscured by any aura of secrecy and 
mystery, its character and nature stand in no need of subtle* 
and complicated metaphysical theories for their explanation. 
Beauty is part and parcel of human experience; it is palpable 
and unmistakable. Nevertheless, in this history of philosoph- 
ical thought the phenomenon of beauty has always proved to 
he one of the greatest paradoxes. Up to the time of Kant a 
philosophy of beauty always meant an attempt to reduce out 
aesthetic experience to an alien principle and to subject aw 
K an alien jurisdiction. Kant in his Critique of Judgment 
was the first to give a clear and convincing proof of the auton- 
omy of art. Ail former systems had looked for a principle of 
ait within the sphere either of theoretical knowledge or of the 
moral life, If art was regarded as the offspring of theoretical 
activity it became necessary to analyze the logical rules to, 
which this particular activity conforms. But in this case logic 

45. See the examples given in fespersen, Language, p. 429. 

46, For more details see Philosophie der symtoliseheii Formal, 1 , 
188 ft. 

ART \ 77 

itself was no longer a homogeneous whole. It had to be divided 
into separate and comparatively independent parts, Tire logic 
stflf the imagination had to he distinguished from the logic of 
rational and scientific thought. In his Aesthetica (1750) Alex- 
ander Baumgarten had made the first comprehensive system- 
atic attempt to construct a logic of the imagination. But even 
this attempt, which in a sense proved to be decisive and in- 
valuable, could not secure for art a really autonomous value, 
; For the logic of the imagination could never command the 
same dignity as the logic of the pure intellect. If there was a 
J theory of art, then it could only be a gnoseologia inferior, 
an analysis of the "lower,” sensuous part of human knowledge. 
Art could, on the other hand, be described as an emblem of 

- moral truth. It was conceived as an allegory, a figurative ex- 
pression which under its sensuous iorm concealed an ethical 

sense. But in both cases, in its moral as well as in its theoretical 
interpretation, art possessed no independent value of its own. 
In the hierarchy of human knowledge and of human life art 
was only a preparatory stage, a subordinate and subservient 

- means pointing to some higher end. 

; The philosophy of art exhibits the same conflict between 
two antagonistic tendencies that we encounter in the philoso- 
phy of language. This is of course no mere historical coinci- 
dence. It goes back to one and the same basic division in tbe 
interpretation of reality. Language and art are constantly 
oscillating between two opposite poles, an objective and a sub- 
jective pole. No theory of language or art could forget or 
'.'suppress either one of these poles, though the stress may be 
laid now on the one and now on the other. 

In the first case language and art are subsumed under a 
common heading, the category of imitation; and their prin- 
cipal function is mimetic. Language originates in an imitation 
of sounds, art is an imitation of outward things. Imitation is a 
-'‘fundamental instinct, an irreducible fact of human nature. 

' “Imitation,” says Aristotle, “is natural to man from child; 
hood, one of his advantages over the lower animals being this, 
that he is the most imitative creature in the world, and leams 
at first by imitation.” And imitation is also an inexhaustible 
jsrurce of delight, as is proved by the fact that, though the 


objects themselves may be painful to see, we delight never- 
theless in viewing the most realistic representations of them 
in art— the forms, for example, of the lowest animals and of 
dead bodies. Aristotle describes this delight rather as a 
theoretical than as a specifically aesthetic experience. “To be 
learning something,” he declares, "is the greatest of pleasures 
not only to the philosopher but also to the rest of mankind, 
however small their capacity for it; the reason of the delight 
in seeing the picture is that one is at the same time learning- 
gathering the meaning of things, e.g., that the man there is 
so-and-so.” 1 At first sight this pnnciple seems only to apply 
to the representative arts. It could, however, easily be trans- 
ferred to all the other forms. Music itself became a picture of 
things. Even flute playing or dancing are, after all, nothing 
but imitations; for the flute player or the dancer represents’ 
by his rhythms men’s characters as well as what they do 
and suffer. 2 And the whole history of poetics was influenced 
by the device of Horace, “ut pictura poesis," and by the saying 
of Simonides, “painting is mute poetry and poetry a speaking 
picture.” Poetry is differentiated from painting by the mode 
and means, but not by the general function of imitation. 

But it should be observed that the most radical theories of 
imitation were not intended to restrict the work of art to a 
merely mechanical reproduction of reality. All of them had 
to make allowance to a certain extent for the creativeness of 
the artist. It was not easy to reconcile these two demands. If 
imitation is the true aim of art, it is clear that the spontaneity; 
the productive power of the artist is a disturbing rather than 
a constructive factor. Instead of describing things in their true 
nature it falsifies the aspect of things. This disturbance intro- 
duced by the subjectivity of the artist could not be denied by 
the classical theories of imitation. But it could be confined 
within its proper limits and subjected to general rules. Tims 
the principle ms simia naturae could not be maintained in a 
strict and uncompromising sense. For not even nature itself is 
infallible, nor does it always attain its end. In such a case art 

1. Aristotle, Poetics, 4, 1448’’ 5-17. In Aristotle on tile Art of Poetry, 
ed. by Ingram Bywater (Oxford, 1909), pp. 8-11. 

2, idem, r. 1447 1 26. Ed. Bywater, pp, 2-5. 



must come to the aid of nature and actually correct or 
perfect it. 

But Nature mars-wlierein she doth resemble 
The craftsman who about his labour goes 
And keeps the knack, although his fingers tremble. a 

If “all beauty is truth," all truth is not necessarily beauty. In 
order to reach the highest beauty it is just as essential to 
deviate from nature as to reproduce nature. To determine 
the measure, tire right proportion, of this deviation, became 
one of the principal tasks of a theory of art. Aristotle had 
asserted that for the purposes of poetry a convincing impos- 
sibility is preferable to an unconvincing possibility. To the 
objection of a critic that Zeuxis had painted men such as 
could never exist in reality, the right answer is that it is better 
they should be like that, for the artist ought to improve on 
his model.' 1 

The neoclassicists-from the Italians of the sixteenth cen- 
tury to the work of Abbd Batteux, Les beaux arts reduits i 
un mime principe (1747) —took their point of departure from 
the same principle. Art does not reproduce nature in a general 
and indiscriminate sense; it reproduces "it belle nature," 
But if imitation is the real purpose of art the very concept 
of any such ''beautiful nature" is highly questionable. For 
how can we improve on our model without difiguring it? How 
can we transcend the reality of things without trespassing 
-against the laws of truth? From the point of view of this 
'theory poetry and art in general never can be anything but 
an agreeable falsity. * 

The general theory of imitation seemed to hold its ground 
and to defy all attacks up to the first bait of the eighteenth 
century. But even in the treatise of Batteux, who was perhaps 
the last resolute champion of this theory, 3 4 * 6 we feel a certain 

3, Dante, Paracliso, XIII, v. 76. English trans. by Melville Best 
Anderson, The Divine Comedy (World Book Co., 1921), p. 357. * 

4. Aristotle, op. cit„ 25. 1461''. Ed. Bywater, pp. 86-87. 

e. To be sure, even in the nineteenth century the general theory of 

imitation still played an important role. It is, for instance, maintained 
1 tfhd defended in T nine's Philosophic de Part. 


uneasiness with regard to its universal validity. The stumbling 
block for this theory had always been the phenomenon of 
lyrical poetry. The arguments by which Batteux attempted to < 
include lyrical poetry under the general scheme of imitative 
art are weak and inconclusive. And indeed all these superficial 
arguments were suddenly swept away by the appearance of a 
new farce. Even in the field of aesthetics the name of Rous- 
seau marks a decisive turning point in the general history of 
ideas. Rousseau rejected the whole classical and neoclassical 
tradition of the theory of art. To him art is not a description 
or reproduction of the empirical world but an overflow of 
emotions and passions. Rousseau’s Nouvelle H iloise proved to 
be a new revolutionary power. The mimetic principle that had 
prevailed for many centuries had, henceforward, to give way 
to a new conception and a new ideal-to the ideal of “char- 
acteristic art,'’ From this point we can trace the triumph of a 
new principle throughout the whole of European literature. 
In Germany Herder and Goethe followed the example of 
Rousseau. Thus the whole theory of beauty had to assume a 
new shape. Beauty in the traditional sense of the term is by 
no means the only aim of art; it is in fact but a secondary 
and derivative feature, “Do not let a misconception come be- 
tween us”; Goethe admonishes his reader in his paper “Von 
deutscher Baukunst"; “do not let the effeminate doctrine of 
the modem beauty-monger make you too tender to enjoy 
significant roughness, lest in the end your enfeebled feeling 
should be able to endure nothing but unmeaning smoothness. 
They try to make you believe that the fine arts arose from our 
supposed inclination to beautify the world around us. That is 
not true. . . . 

“Art is formative long before it is beautiful, and yet it is 
then true and great art, very often truer and greater than 
beautiful art itself. For man has in him a formative nature, 
which displays itself in activity as soon as his existence is 
secure; . . . And so the savage remodels with bizarre traits, 
horrible forms and coarse colours, his 'cocos,’ his feathers, and 
his own body. And though this imagery consists of the most 
capricious forms, yet without proportions of shape, its partf 

ART 181 

will agree together, for a single feeling has created them into 
a characteristic whole. 

“Now this characteristic art is the only true art. When it 
acts on what lies round it from inward, single, individual, 
original, independent feeling, careless and even ignorant of all 
that is alien to it, then, whether born of rude savagery or of 
cultivated sensibility, it is whole and living." 0 
With Rousseau and Goethe there began a new period of 
aesthetic theory. Characteristic art has gained a definitive vic- 
tory over imitative art. But in order to understand this char- 
acteristic art in its true sense we must avoid a one-sided 
interpretation. It is not enough to lay tire stress upon the 
emotional side of the work of art. It is true that all character- 
istic or expressive art is “the spontaneous overflow of powerful 
■ feelings." But if we were to accept this Wordsworthian defini- 
tion without reserve, we should only be led to a change of 
sign, not to a decisive change of meaning. In this case art 
would remain reproductive; but, instead of being a reproduc- 
tion of things, of physical objects, it would become a reproduc- 
tion of our inner life, of our affections and emotions, Using 
once more our analogy with the philosophy of language, we 
might say that in this case we bad only exchanged an onomato- 
poetic theory of art for an interjectional theory. But this is 
not the sense in which the term "characteristic art” was under- 
stood by Goethe. The passage cited above was written in 
1773, in Goethe’s youthful “ Sturm und Dn mg“ period. Yet 
rin no period of his life could he ever neglect the objective 
1 pole of his poetry. Art is indeed expressive, but it cannot be 
expressive without being formative, And this formative pjpc- 
ess is carried out in a certain sensuous medium. “As soon as 
he is free from care and fear,” writes Goethe, “the demigod, 
creative in repose, gropes round him for matter into which to 
breathe his spirit." In many modem aesthetic theories— es- 
- pecially that of Croce and his disciples and followers-this 
material factor is forgotten or minimized. Croce is interested 
only in the fact of expression, not in the mode. The mode he 

6, Goethe, “Von deutscher Bankunst,” “Werke,” XXXVII, 148 f. 
English trails, by Bernard Bosanquet in Three Lectures on Aesthetic 
^London, Macmillan, 1923), pp. 114 if. 


takes to be irrelevant both for the character and for the value 
of the work of art. The only thing which matters is the intui- 
tion of the artist, not the embodiment of this intuition in a 
particular material. The material has a technical but not an 
aesthetical importance. Croce's philosophy is a philosophy of 
the spirit emphasizing the purely spiritual character of the 
work of art. But in his theory the whole spiritual energy is 
contained and expended in the formation of the intuition 
alone. When this process is completed the artistic creation has 
been achieved. What follows is only an external reproduction 
which is necessary for the communication of the intuition hut 
meaningless with respect to its essence. But for a great painter, 
a great musician, or a great poet, the colors, the lines, rhythms, 
and words are not merely a part of his technical apparatus; 
they are necessary moments of the productive process itself. 

This is just as true of the specifically expressive arts as of 
the representative arts. Even in lyrical poetry emotion is not 
the only and decisive feature. It is of course true that the 
great lyrical poets are capable of the deepest emotions and 
that an artist who is not endowed with powerful feelings will 
never produce anything except shallow and frivolous art. But 
from this fact we cannot conclude that the function of lyrical 
poetry and of art in general can be adequately described as 
the artist’s ability “to make a clean breast of his feelings.” 
“What the artist is trying to do," says R, G, Collingwood, 
"is to express a given emotion. To express it, and to express it 
well, are the same thing. . . . Every utterance and every 
gesture that each one of us makes is a work of art.” 1 But here 
again the whole constructive process which is a prerequisite 
both of the production and of the contemplation of the work 
of art is entirely overlooked. Every gesture is no more a work of 
art than every interjection is an act of speech. Both the gesture 
and the interjection are deficient in one essential and indis- 
pensable feature. They are involuntary and instinctive reac- 
tions; they possess no real spontaneity. The moment of 
puiposiveness is necessary for linguistic and artistic expression. 
In every act of speech and in every artistic creation we find a 

7 ■ R. G. Collingwood, The Principles of Art (Oxford, Clarendon 
Press, 1938), pp. 179, 281, 285. r 

ART 183 

definite teleological structure. An actor in a drama really 
“acts” his part. Each individual utterance is a part of a coher- 
• ent structural whole. The accent and rhythm of his words, the 
modulation of his voice, the expressions of his face, and the 
postures of his body all tend to the same end-to the embodi- 
ment of human character. All this is not simply "expression"; 
it is also representation and interpretation. Not even a lyric 
poem is wholly devoid of this general tendency of art. The 
lyric poet is not just a man who indulges in displays of feeling. 
To he swayed by emotion alone is sentimentality, not art. An 
artist who is absorbed not in the contemplation and creation 
of forms but rather in his own pleasure or in his enjoyment 
of “the joy of grief" becomes a sentimentalist. Hence we can 
. hardly ascribe to lyric art a more subjective character than to 
. all the other forms of art. For it contains the same sort of 
embodiment, and the same process of objectification. “Po- 
etry," wrote Mallarmd, “is not written with ideas, it is written 
with words." It is written with images, sounds, and rhythms 
which, just as in the case of dramatic poetry and dramatic 
representation, coalesce into an indivisible whole. In every 
great lyrical poem we find this concrete and indivisible unity. 

Like all the other symbolic forms ait is not the mere re- 
production of a ready-made, given reality. It is one of the ways 
leading to an objective view of things and of human life. It is 
not an imitation but a discovery of reality. We do not, how- 
ever, discover nature through art in the same sense in which 
, the scientist uses the term “nature." Language and science 
•; are the two main processes by which we ascertain and deter- 
mine our concepts of tire external world. We must claigjfy 
our sense perceptions and bring them under general notions 
and general rules in order to give them an objective meaning. 
Such classification is the result of a persistent effort toward 
simplification. The work of art in like manner implies such 
. an act of condensation and concentration. When Aristotle 
wanted to describe the real difference between poetry and 
history he insisted upon this process. What a drama gives us, 
he asserts, is a single action (mia praxis) which is a complete 
whole in itself, with all the organic unity of a living Creature; 
^whereas the historian has to deal not with one action but 


with one period and all that happened therein to One or more 
persons, however disconnected the several events may have 
been. 8 

In this respect beauty as well as truth may be described in 
terms of the same classical formula : they are “a unity in the 
manifold.” But in the two cases there is a difference of stress. 
Language and science are abbreviations of reality; art is an 
intensification of reality. Language and science depend upon 
one and the same process of abstraction; art may be described 
as a continuous process of concretion. In our scientific de- 
scription of a given object we begin with a great number of 
observations which at first sight arc only a loose conglomerate 
of detached facts. But the farther we proceed the more these 
individual phenomena tend to assume a definite shape and 
become a systematic whole, What science is searching for is 
some central features of a given object from which all its 
particular qualities may be derived. If a chemist knows the 
atomic number of a certain element he possesses a clue to a 
full insight into its structure and constitution. From this num- 
ber he may deduce all the characteristic properties of the 
element. But art does not admit of this sort of conceptual 
simplification and deductive generalization. It does not in- 
quire into the qualities or causes of things; it gives us the 
intuition of the form of things. But this too is by no means a 
mere repetition of something we had before. It is a true and 
genuine discovery. The artist is just as much a discoverer of 
the forms of nature as the scientist is a discoverer of facts or 
natural laws. The great artists of all times have been cogni- 
zant of this special task and special gift of art. Leonardo da 
Vinci spoke of the purpose of painting and sculpture in the 
words “sapor vedere.” According to him the painter and sculp- 
tor are the great teachers in the realm of the visible world, For 
the awareness of pure forms of things is by no means an 
instinctive gift, a gift of nature. We may have met with an 
object of our ordinary sense experience a thousand times with- 
out ever having “seen” its form. We are still at a loss if asked 
to describe not its physical qualities or effects but its pure 

8. Aristotle, op. cit., 2;. 1459" 17-29. Ed. Bywater, pp. 70-73. 

■set 185 

visual shape and structure. It is art that fills this gap. Here 
we live in the realm of pure forms rather than in that of the 
•'analysis and scrutiny of sense objects or the study of their 

From a merely theoretical point of view we may subscribe 
to the words of Kant that mathematics is the “pride of human 
reason. 1 ' But for this triumph of scientific reason we have to 
pay a very high price. Science means abstraction, and abstrac- 
» tion is always an impoverishment of reality. The forms of 
things as they are described in scientific concepts tend more 
and more to become mere formnlae. These formulae are of a 
surprising simplicity. A single formula, like the Newtonian 
law of gravitation, seems to comprise and explain the whole 
‘ structure of our material universe, It would seem as though 
V reality were not only accessible to our .scientific abstractions 
but exhaustible by them. But as soon as we approach the field 
of art this proves to be an illusion. For the aspects of things 
are innumerable, and they vary from one moment to another. 
Any attempt to comprehend them within a simple formula 
' would be in vain. Heraclitus 1 saying that the sun is new every 
day is true for the sun of the artist if not for the sun of the 
scientist. When the scientist describes an object he character- 
izes it by a set of numbers, by its physical and chemical con- 
stants. Art has not only a different aim but a different object. 
If we say of two artists that they paint "the same” landscape 
we describe our aesthetic experience very inadequately. From 
v the point of view of art such a pretended sameness is quite 
'•illusory. We cannot speak of one and the same thing as the 
subject matter of both painters. For the artist does not port«#y 
or copy a certain empirical object-a landscape with its hills 
and mountains, its brooks and rivers. What he gives us is the 
individual and momentary physiognomy of the landscape. He 
wishes to express the atmosphere of things, the play of light 
* and shadow. A landscape is not “the same" in early twilight, 
in midday heat, or on a rainy or sunny day, Our aesthetic, 
perception exhibits a much greater variety and belongs to a 
much more complex order than our ordinary sense perception. 
In sense perception we are content with apprehending the 
t common and constant features of the objects of our surround- 


ings. Aesthetic experience is incomparably richer. It is preg- 
nant with infinite possibilities which remain unrealized in 
ordinary sense experience. In the work of the artist these 
possibilities become actualities; they are brought into the open 
and take on a definite shape. The revelation of this inex- 
haustibility of the aspects of things is one of the great privi- 
leges and one of the deepestcharms of art. 

The painter Ludwig Richter relates in his memoirs how 
once when he was in Tivoli as a young man he and three 
friends set out to paint the same landscape. They were all 
firmly resolved not to deviate from nature; they wished to 
reproduce vvliat they had seen as accurately as possible. Never- 
theless the result was four totally different pictures, as differ- 
ent from one another as the personalities of the artists. From 
this experience the narrator concluded that there is no such 
thing as objective vision, and that form and color are always 
apprehended according to individual temperament . 0 Not 
even the most determined champions of a strict and uncom- 
promising naturalism could overlook or deny this factor, 
fimik Zola defines the work of art as “tm coin He I a nature vu 
d trovers un temperament What is referred to here as tem- 
perament is not merely singularity or idiosyncrasy. When ab- 
sorbed in the intuition of a great work of ait wc do not feel a 
separation between the subjective and the objective worlds. 
We do not live in our plain commonplace reality of physical 
filings, nor do we live wholly within an individual sphere. 
Beyond these two spheres we detect a new realm, the realm 
of plastic, musical, poetical forms; and these forms have a real 
universality, Kant distinguishes sharply between what he calls 
“aesthetic universality” and the “objective validity” which 
belongs to our logical and scientific judgments . 10 In our 
aesthetic judgments, he contends, we are not concerned with 

9. I take this account from Heinrich WBlfHin’s Principles of Art 
— History. 

10. In Kant's terminology the former is called Gemeingiiltiglceit 
whereas tire latter is called Ailgemeingultigfceit— a distinction which 
is difficult to render in corresponding English terms. For a systematic 
interpretation of the two terms see H. W. Cassirer, A Commentary 
on Kant's "Critique of Judgment” (London, 1938), pp. 190 If. t 



the object as such but with the pure contemplation of the 
object. Aesthetic universality means that the predicate of 
■‘beauty is not restricted to a special individual but extends 
over the whole field of judging subjects. If the work of art 
were nothing but the freak and frenzy of an individual artist 
it would not possess this universal communicability. The im- 
agination of the artist does not arbitrarily invent the forms of 
things. It shows us these forms in their true shape, making 
v them visible and recognizable. The artist chooses a certain 
aspect of reality, but this process of selection is at the same 
time a process of objectification. Once we have entered into 
his perspective we are forced to look on the world with his 
eyes. It would seem as if we had never before seen the world in 
" this peculiar light. Yet we are convinced that this light is not 
t' merely a momentary flash. By virtue of the work of art it 
has become durable and permanent. Once reality has been 
disclosed to us in this particular way, we continue to see it in 
this shape. 

A sharp distinction between the objective and the subjec- 
tive, the representative and the expressive arts is thus difficult 
to maintain. The Parthenon frieze or a Mass by Bach, 
Michelangelo’s “Sistine Chapel 1 ' or a poem of Leopardi, a 
sonata of Beethoven or a novel of Dostoievski are neither 
merely representative nor merely expressive. They are sym- 
bolic in a new and deeper sense. Tile works of the great lyrical 
poets-of Goethe or Hblderlin, of Wordsworth or Shelley-do 
’'.not give us disjecti membra f> oetcie, scattered and incoherent 
1 fragments of the poet's life. They are not simply a momentary 
outburst of passionate feeling; they reveal a deep unity S7td 
continuity. The great tragic and comic writers on the other 
hand— Euripides and Shakespeare, Cervantes and Molibre— 
do not entertain us with detached scenes from the spectacle of 
life. Taken in themselves these scenes are but fugitive shad- 
* ows. But suddenly we begin to see behind these shadows and 
to envisage a new reality. Through his characters and actions-' 
the comic and the tragic poet reveals his view of human life 
as a whole, of its greatness and weakness, its sublimity and its 
absurdity. ‘'Art," wrote Goethe, “does not undertake to emu- 
late nature in its breadth and depth. It sticks to the surface 


of natural phenomena; but it has its own depth, its own 
power; it crystallizes the highest moments of these superficial 
phenomena by recognizing in them the character of lawful- 
ness, the perfection of harmonious proportion, the summit of 
beauty, the dignity of significance, the height of passion." u 
This fixation of the “highest moments of phenomena" is 
neither an imitation of physical things nor a mere overflow 
of powerful feelings. It is an interpretation of reality-not by 
concepts but by intuitions; not through the medium of 
thought but through that of sensuous forms. 

From Plato to Tolstoi art has been accused of exciting our 
emotions and thus of disturbing the order and harmony of 
our moral life. Poetical imagination, according to Plato, waters 
our experience of lust and anger, of desire and pain, and 
makes them grow when they ought to starve with drought . 12 
Tolstoi sees in art a source of infection. "Not only is infec- 
tion," he says, “a sign of art, but the degree of infectiousness 
is also the sole measure of excellence in art.” But the flaw in 
this theory is obvious. Tolstoi suppresses a fundamental mo- 
ment of art, the moment of form, The aesthetic experience- 
the experience of contemplation-is a different state of mind 
from the coolness of our theoretical and the sobriety of our 
moral judgment. It is filled with the liveliest energies of 
passion, but passion itself is here transformed both in its na- 
ture and in its meaning. Wordsworth defines poetry as “emo- 
tion recollected in tranquillity.” But the tranquillity we feel in 
great poetry is not that of recollection. The emotions aroused 
by the poet do not belong to a remote past. They are “lrere"- 
aliye and immediate. We are aware of tlieii full strength, bui 
this strength tends in a new direction. It is rather seen than 
immediately felt. Our passions arc no longer dark and im- 
penetrable powers; they become, as it were, transparent. 
Shakespeare never gives us an aesthetic theory, pie does not 
speculate about the nature of art. Yet in the only passage in 
* jvhich he speaks of the character and function of dramatic art 
the whole stress is laid upon this point. "The purpose of play- 

11, Goethe, Notes to a translation of Diderot’s “Essai sur la pein- 
ture,” “Wake,” XLV, 260. 

12. Plato, Republic, 606D (Jowett trans.j. 

ing,“ as Hamlet explains, “both at the first and now, was and 
is, to hold, as ’twerc, the mirror up to nature; to show virtue 
her own feature, scom her own image, and the very age and 
body of the time his form and pressure.” But the image of a 
passion is not the passion itself. The poet who represents a 
passion does not infect us with this passion. At a Shakespeare 
play we are not infected with the ambition of Macbeth, with 
the cruelty of Richard III, or with the jealousy of Othello. We 
are not at the mercy of these emotions; we look through them; 
we seem to penetrate into their very nature and essence. In 
this respect Shakespeare’s theory of dramatic art, if he had 
such a theory, is in complete agreement with the conception 
of the fine arts of the great painters and sculptors of the 
Renaissance. He would have subscribed to the words of 
Leonardo da Vinci that “super reclere" is the highest gift of 
the artist. The great painters show us the forms of outward 
things; the great dramatists show us the forms of our inner 
life. Dramatic art discloses a new breadth and depth of life. It 
conveys an awareness of human things and human destinies, 
of human greatness and misery, in comparison to which onr 
ordinary existence appears poor and trivial. All of us feel, 
vaguely and dimly, the infinite potentialities of life, which 
silently await the moment when they are to be called forth 
from dormancy into the clear and intense light of conscious- 
ness. It is not the degree of infection but the degree of in- 
tensification and illumination which is the measure of the 
excellence of ait. 

If we accept this view of art we can come to a better under- 
standing of a problem first encountered in the Aristotelian 
theory of catharsis. We need not enter here into all the diffi- 
culties of the Aristotelian term nr into the innumerable efforts 
of the commentators to clear up these difficulties . 18 What 
seems to be clear and what is now generally admitted is that 
the cathartic process described by Aristotle does not mean a 
purification or a change in the character and quality of the* 
passions themselves but a change in the human soul. By tragic 

13. For details see Jakob Berrays, Zwei Abhandlungen fiber die 
Aristotelische Theorie des Dramas (Berlin, 1880) and Ingram Rv- 
?water, Aristotle on the Art of Poetry (Oxford, 1909 ) , pp. 152 ff, 


poetry the soul acquires a new attitude toward its emotions. 
The soul experiences the emotions of pity and fear, but in- 
stead of being disturbed and disquieted by them it is brought 
to a state of rest and peace. At Erst sight this would seem to 
be a contradiction. For what Aristotle looks upon as the effect 
of tragedy is a synthesis of two moments which in real life, in 
our practical existence, exclude each other. The highest in- 
tensification of our emotional life is thought of as at the same 
time giving 11s a sense of repose. We live through all our 
passions feeling their full range and highest tension. But what 
we leave behind when passing the threshold of art is the hard 
pressure, the compulsion of our emotions. The tragic poet is 
not the slave but the master of his emotions; and he is able 
to transfer this mastery to the spectators. In his work we arc 
not swayed and carried away by our emotions. Aesthetic free- 
dom is not the absence of passions, not Stoic apathy, but just 
the contrary. It means that our emotional life acquires its 
greatest strength, and that in this very strength it changes 
its form. For here we no longer live in the immediate reality 
of things but in a world of pure sensuous forms. In this world 
all our feelings undergo a sort of transubstantiation with re- 
spect to their essence and their character. The passions them- 
selves are relieved of their material burden, We feel their 
form and their life hut not their encumbrance. The calmness 
of the work of art is, paradoxically, a dynamic, not a static 
calmness. Art gives us the motions of the human soul in all 
their depth and variety. But the form, the measure and 
rhythm, ot these motions is not comparable to any single 
stf^ of emotion. What we feel in art is not a simple or single 
emotional quality. It is the dynamic process of life itself— the 
continuous oscillation between opposite poles, between joy 
and grief, hope and fear, exultation and despair. To give 
aesthetic form to our passions is to transform them into a 
free and active state. In the work of the artist the power of 
■-^passion itself has been made a formative power. 

It may be objected that all this applies to the artist but not 
to ourselves, the spectators and auditors. But such an objection 
would imply a misunderstanding of the artistic process. Like 
the process of speech the artistic process is a dialogical and< 



dialectic one. Not even Hie spectator is left to a merely passive 
role. Wc cannot understand a work of art without, to a certain 
degree, repeating and reconstructing the creative process by 
which it has come into being. By the nature of this creative 
process the passions themselves are turned into actions. If in 
real life we had to endure all those emotions through which 
we live in Sophocles’ Oedipus or in Shakespeare’s King Lear 
we should scarcely survive the shock and strain, But art turns 
all these pains and outrages, these cruelties and atrocities, into 
a means of self-liberation, thus giving us an inner freedom 
which cannot be attained in any other way. 

The attempt to characterize a work of art by some particular 
emotional feature must, therefore, inevitably fail to do it jus- 
tice, If what art tries to express is no special state hut the 
very dynamic process of our inner life, then any such qualifica- 
tion could hardly he more than perfunctory and superficial. 
Art must always give us motion rather than mere emotion. 
Even the distinction between tragic and comic art is much 
more a conventional than a necessary one. It relates to the 
content and motives but not to the form and essence of art. 
Plato had long since denied the existence of these artificial 
and traditional boundaries. At the end of the Symposium he 
describes Socrates as engaged in a conversation with Agathon, 
the tragic poet, and Aristophanes, the comic poet. Socrates 
compels the two poets to admit that the true tragedian is 
the hue artist in comedy, and vice versa , 14 A commentary 
on this passage is given in the Philebus. In comedy as well as in 
tragedy, Plato maintains in this dialogue, we always experience 
a mixed feeling of pleasure and pain, In this the poet follows 
the rales of nature itself since he portrays "tire whole comedy 
and tragedy of life .” 16 In every great poem-in Shakespeare’s 
plays, in Dante's Commedk, in Goethe’s Faust- we must in- 
deed pass through the whole gamut of human emotions. If we 
were unable to grasp the most delicate nuances of the differ^, 
ent shades of feeling, unable to follow the continuous varia- 
tions in rhythm and tone, if unmoved by sudden dynamic 

^ 14. Plato, Symposium, 223 (Jowetttrans.). 

' r 5, Philebus, 48 ff . ( Jowett tans.) • 


changes, we could not understand and feel the poem. We may 
speak of the individual temperament of the artist, but the 
work of art, as such, has no special temperament. We cannot 
subsume it under any traditional psychological class concept. 
To speak of Mozart’s music as cheeiful or serene, of Beetho- 
ven’s as grave, somber, or sublime would betray an unpenetrat- 
ing taste. Here too the distinction between tragedy and 
comedy becomes irrelevant, The question whether Mozart’s 
Don Gicmrmi is a tragedy or an opera buffa is scarcely 
worth answering. Beethoven’s composition based on Schiller’s 
“Hymn to Joy” expresses the highest degree of exultation. 
But when listening to it we do not for a moment forget the 
tragic accents of the Ninth Symphony. All these contrasts 
must be present and they must be felt in their full strength. 
In our aesthetic experience they coalesce into one indivisible 
whole. What we hear is the whole scale of human emotions 
from the lowest to the highest note; it is the motion and 
vibration of our whole being. The greatest comedians them- 
selves can by no means give us an easy beauty. Their work is 
often filled with great bitterness- Aristophanes is one of the 
sharpest and sternest critics of human nature; Molihre is no- 
where greater than in his Misanthrope or Tartuffe. Neverthe- 
less the bitterness of the great comic writers is not the acerbity 
of the satirist or the severity of the moralist. It does not lead 
to a moral verdict upon human life. Comic art possesses in 
the highest degree that faculty shared by all art, sympathetic 
vision. By virtue of this faculty it can accept human life with 
all its defects and foibles, its follies and vices. Great comic 
ari.has always been a sort of encomium moriae, a praise of 
folly. In comic perspective all things begin to take on a new 
face. We are perhaps never nearer to our human world than 
in the works of a great comic writer-in Cervantes’ Don 
Quixote, Sterne’s Tristram S handy, 01 in Dickens’ Pickwick 
Papers. We become observant of the minutest details; we see 
this world in all its narrowness, its pettiness, and silliness. We 
live in this restricted world, but we are no longer imprisoned 
by it. Such is the peculiar character of the comic catharsis. 
Things and events begin to lose their material weight; scorn 
is dissolved into laughter and laughter is liberation. 



That beauty is not an immediate property of things, that it 
necessarily involves a relation to the human mind, is a point 
which seems to be admitted by almost all aesthetic theories. 
In his essay "Of the Standard of Taste” Hume declares: 
“Beauty is no quality in things themselves: it exists merely 
in the mind which contemplates them.” But this statement 
is ambiguous. If we understand mind in Hume’s own sense, 
and think of self as nothing bat a bundle of impressions, it 
would be very difficult to find in such a bundle that predicate 
which we call beauty. Beauty cannot be defined by its mere 
percipi, as “being perceived”; it must be defined in terms of 
an activity of the mind, of the function of perceiving and by a 
characteristic direction of this function. It does not consist of 
passive percepts; it is a mode, a process of perceptualization. 
But this process is not merely subjective in character; on the 
contrary, it is one of the conditions of our intuition of an ob- 
jective world. The artistic eye is not a passive eye that receives 
and registers the impression of things. It is a constructive eye, 
and it is only by constructive acts that we can discover the 
beauty of natural things. The sense of beauty is the suscepti- 
bility to the dynamic life of forms, and this life cannot he 
apprehended except by a corresponding dynamic process in 

To be sure, in the various aesthetic theories this polarity, 
which as we have seen is an inherent condition of beauty, has 
led to diametrically opposed interpretations. According to Al- 
brecht Diiier the real gift of the artist is to “elicit" beauty 
from nature. “Denn wahrhaftig steckt die Kunst in der Natur, 
wer sie herans kann reissen, der hat sie.” 10 On the other hand 
we find spiritualistic theories which deny any connection 
between the beauty of art and the so-called beauty of nature. 
The beauty of nature is understood as merely a metaphor. 
Croce thinks it sheer rhetoric to speak of a beautiful river or 
tree. Nature to him is stupid when compared with art; she 
is mute save when man makes her speak. The contradict^’ 
between these conceptions may perhaps be resolved by dis- 

16. “For art standeth firmly fixed in Nature — and who can rend her 
from thence, he only possesseth her," See William M. Conway, Lit- 
erary Remains of Albrecht Diirer (1889), p. 182. 


tinguishing sharply between organic beauty and aesthetic 
beauty. There are many natural beauties with no specific aes- 
thetic character. The organic beauty of a landscape is not the 
same as that aesthetic beauty which wc feel in the works of 
the great landscape painters. Even we, the spectators, are fully 
aware of this difference. I may walk through a landscape and 
feel its charms. I may enjoy the mildness of the air, the fresh- 
ness of the meadows, the variety and cheerfulness of the color- 
ing, and the fragrant odor of the flowers. But 1 may then 
experience a sudden change in my frame of mind. Thereupon 
I see the landscape with an artist’s eye— I begin to form a 
picture of it. I have now entered a new realm— the realm not 
of living things but of "living forms.” No longer in the im- 
mediate reality of things, I live now in the rhythm of spatial 
forms, in the harmony and contrast of colors, in the balance of 
light and shadow, In such absorption in the dynamic aspect- 
of form consists the aesthetic experience. 

2 All the controversies between the various aesthetic 
schools may in a sense be reduced to one point, What all 
these schools have to admit is that art is an independent 
“universe of discourse.” Even the most radical defenders of a 
strict realism who wished to limit art to a mimetic function 
alone have had to make allowance for the specific power of 
the artistic imagination. But the various schools differed 
widely in their evaluation of this power. The classical and 
neoclassical theories did not encourage the free play of im- 
agination. From their point of view the imagination of the 
artist is a great hut rather questionable gift. Boileau himself 
did not deny that, psychologically speaking, the gift of im- 
agination is indispensable for every true poet. But if the poet 
indulges in the mere play of this natural impulse and instinc- 
tive power, he will never achieve perfection. The poet's im- 
-sgination must be guided and controlled by reason and 
subjected to its rules. Even when deviating from the natural 
the poet must respect the laws of reason, and these laws re- 
strict him to the field of the probable. French classicism 
defined this field in purely objective terms. The dramatic 

ART 193 

unities of space and time became physical facts measurable 
by a linear standard or by a clock. 

An entirely different conception of the character and func- 
tion of poetic imagination was introduced by the romantic 
theory of art. This theory is not the work of the so-called 
“romantic school” in Germany. It had been developed much 
earlier and had begun to play a decisive role in both French 
and English literature during the eighteenth century. One of 
the best and most concise expressions of this theory is to be 
found in Edward Young’s Conjectures on Original Composi- 
tion (1759). “The pen of an original writer,” says Young, ‘like 
Armida’s wand out of a barren waste calls a blooming spring.” 
From this time on the classical views of the probable were 
supplanted more and more by their opposite. The marvelous 
and miraculous are now believed to be the only subjects that 
admit of true poetical portraiture. In eighteenth-century aes- 
thetics we can trace step by step the rise of this new ideal. The 
Swiss critics Bodmer and Breitinger appeal to Milton in jus- 
tification of the “wonderful in poetry.” 17 The wonderful 
gradually outweighs and eclipses the probable as a literary 
subject. The new theory seemed to be embodied in the works 
of the greatest poets. Shakespeare himself had illustrated it in 
his description of the poet’s imagination : 

The lunatic, the lover, and the poet 
Are of imagination all compact: 

I One sees more devils than vast hell can hold, 

That is, the madman; the lover, all as frantic, 

Sees Helen’s beauty in a brow of Egypt; 

The poet’s eye, in a fine frenzy rolling, 

Doth glance from heaven to earth, from earth to heaven; 
And, as imagination bodies forth 
The forms of tilings unknown, the poet’s pen 
Turns them to shapes, and gives to airy nothing 
A local habitation and a name. 18 

Yet the romantic conception of poetry found no solid sup- 

17. Cf. Bodmer and Breitinger, Disburse der Mala (1721-23). 

*'18. Midsummer Night’s Dream, Act V, sc. r. 


port in Shakespeare. If we stood in need of proof that the 
world of the artist is not a merely “fantastic 1 ' universe, we 
could find no better, no more classical, witness than Shake- 
speare. The light in which he sees nature and human life is 
no mere “fancy light in fancy caught." But there is still 
another form of imagination with which poetry seems to be 
indissolubly connected. When Vico made his first systematic 
attempt to create a “logic of the imagination” he turned back 
to the world of myth. He speaks of three different ages: the 
age of gods, the age of heroes, and the age of man. It is in 
the two former ages, he declared, that we have to look for the 
true origin of poetry. Mankind could not begin with abstract 
thought or with a rational language. It had to pass through the 
era of the symbolic language of myth and poetry. The first 
nations did not think in concepts hut in poetic images: they 
spoke in fables and wrote in hieroglyphs. The poet and the 
maker of myth seem, indeed, to live in the same world. They 
are endowed with the same fundamental power, the power of 
personification. They cannot contemplate any object without 
giving to it an inner life and a personal shape. The modem 
poet often looks back at the mystical, the "divine" or “heroic” 
ages, as at a lost paradise. In his poem “The Gods of Greece” 
Schiller expressed this feeling. He wished to recall the times 
of the Greek poets, for whom myth was not an empty allegory 
but a living power. The poet yearns for this golden age of 
poetry in which all things were still full of gods, in which 
every hill was the dwelling place of an oread, every tree 
the home of a dryad, 

^But this complaint of the modern poet appears to be un- 
founded. For it is one of the greatest privileges of art that it 
can never lose this “divine age." Here the source of imagina- 
tive creation never dries up, for it is indestructible and 
inexhaustible. In every age and in every great artist the 
operation of the imagination reappears in new forms and in 
new force, In the lyrical poets, first and foremost, we feel this 
Continuous rebirth and regeneration. They cannot touch a 
thing without imbuing it with their own inner life. Words- 
worth has described this gift as the inherent power of hi: 
poetry: < 



To every natural form, roclc, fruits or flower, 

Even the loose stones that cover the highway, 

I gave a moral life: I saw them feel, 

Or linked them to some feeling: the great mass 
Lay imbedded in a quickening soul, and all 
That I beheld respired with inward meaning , 18 

But with these powers of invention and of universal anima- 
tion we are only in the anteroom of art. The artist must not 
only feel the “inward meaning” of things and their moral life, 
he must externalize his feelings. The highest and most char- 
acteristic power of artistic imagination appears in this latter 
act. Extemalization means visible or tangible embodiment 
not simply in a particular material medium-in clay, bronze, 
or marble-but in sensuous forms, in rhythms, in color pat- 
tern, in lines and design, in plastic shapes. It is the structure, 
the balance and order, of these forms which affects us in the 
work of art. Every art has its own characteristic idiom, which 
is unmistakable and unexchangeable. The idioms of the vari- 
ous arts may be interconnected, as, for instance, when a lyric 
is set to music or a poem is illustrated; but they are not trans- 
latable into each other, Each idiom has a special task to fulfil 
in the "architectonic” of art. "The problems of form arising 
from this architectonic structure," states Adolf Hildebrand, 
“though they are not given us immediately and self-evidently 
by Nature, are yet the true problems of art. Material acquired 
1 through a direct study of Nature is, by the architectonic 
process, transformed into an artistic unity. When we speak of 
the imitative aspect of art, we are referring to material which* 
has not yet been developed in this manner. Through architec- 
tonic development, then, sculpture and painting emerge from 
the sphere of mere naturalism into the realm of true art,” 20 
Even in poetry we find this architectonic development. With- 
, out it poetical imitation or invention would lose its force. The 

19, Prelude, III, 127-132. 

20. Adolf Hildebrand, Das Problem der Form in dcr bildenden 
Kunst. English turns, by Max Meyer and R, M. Ogden, The Problem 
of Form in Painting and Sculpture (New York, G. E. Stechert Co., 

•■1907), p. 12. 


horrors of Dante's Inferno would remain unalleviated horrors, 
the raptures of his Pmdiso would he visionary dreams were 
they not molded into a new shape by the magic of Dante’s 1 
diction and verse. 

In his theory of tragedy Aristotle stressed the invention of 
die tragic plot. Of all the necessary ingredients of tragedy- 
spectacle, characters, fable, diction, melody, and thought-lie 
thought the combination of the incidents of the story [hi t&ti 
fmgmaton systasis) the most important. For tragedy is es- 
sentially an imitation not of persons but of action and life, 

In a play the persons do not act in order to portray the char- 
acters; the characters are represented lor the sake of the action. 

A tragedy is impossible without action, but there may he 
tragedy without character . 21 French classicism adopted and 
emphasized this Aristotelian theory. Corneille in the prefaces 
to his plays everywhere insists upon this point. He speaks 
with pride of his tragedy Hmiclius because here the plot 
was so complicated that it needed a special intellectual effort 
to understand and unravel it. It is clear, however, that this 
sort of intellectual activity and intellectual pleasure is no nec- 
essary element of the artistic process. To enjoy the plots of 
Shakespeare-to follow with the keenest interest "the com- 
bination of the incidents of the story” in Othello, Macbeth, 
or tear-does not necessarily mean that one understands 
and feels the tragic art of Shakespeare. Without Shakespeare's 
language, without the power of his dramatic diction, all this 
would remain unimpressive. The context of a poem cannon 
be separated from its form— from the verse, the melody, the 1 
mythm. These formal elements are not merely external or 
technical means to reproduce a given intuition; they are part 
and parcel of the artistic intuition itself. 

In romantic thought the theory of poetic imagination had 
reached its climax. Imagination is no longer that special hu- 
„ man activity which builds up the human world of art. It now 
has universal metaphysical value. Poetic imagination is the 
only due to reality. Fichte's idealism is based upon his con- 
ception of “productive imagination.” Schclling declared in 

11, Aristotle, op. dt., 6. 1450* 7-15, Ed. Bywatei, pp. 18-19. 

ART lqn 

his System of Transcendental Idealism that art is the con- 
summation of philosophy. In nature, in morality, in history 
|we are still living in the propylaeum of philosophical wisdom; 
in art we enter into the sanctuary itself. Romantic writers in 
both verse and prose expressed themselves in the same vein. 
The distinction between poetry and philosophy was felt to be 
shallow and superficial. According to Friedrich Schlegel the 
highest task of a modern poet is to strive after a new form of 
poetry which he describes as “transcendental poetry.” No 
other poetic genie can give us the essence of the poetic spirit, 
the “poetry of poetry,” 22 To poeticize philosophy and to 
philosophize poetry-such was the highest aim of all the ro- 
mantic thinkers. The true poem is not the work of the in- 
dividual artist; it is the universe itself, the one work of art 
which is forever perfecting itself. Hence all the deepest mys- 
teries of all the arts and sciences appertain to poetry. 23 “Po- 
etry," said Novalis, “is what is absolutely and genuinely teal. 
That is the kernel of my philosophy. The more poetic, the 
more true.” 2< 

By this conception poetry and art seemed to be elevated to 
a rank and dignity they had never before possessed. They 
became a novum organum for discovering the wealth and 
depth of the universe. Nevertheless this exuberant and ec- 
static praise of poetic imagination had its strict limitations- 
In order to achieve their metaphysical aim the romanticist had 
to make a serious sacrifice. The infinite had been declared to 
tbe the true, indeed the only, subject of art. The beautiful was 
conceived as a symbolic representation of the infinite. He only 
can be an artist, according to Friedrich Schlegel, who has S' 
religion of his own, an original conception of the infinite. 38 
But in this event what becomes of our finite world, the world 
of sense experience? Clearly this world as such has no claim to 
beauty. Over against the true universe, the universe of the poet 

■ n. Cf. Schlegel, “Atheniramsfragmente *38, in Prossischc Jugend- 
sebriffen, ed. by J. Minor (2d ed. Vienna, 1906), II, 242. 

23. Schlegel, “Gesprach iiber die Poesie" (1800), op. at., II, 364, 

24. Novalis, ed, J. Minor, III, 11. Cf. 0 . Walzel, German Roman- 
deism, English tans, by Alma E. Lnssky (New York, 1932), p. 28. 

dfy Ideen, 13, in Prosaische Jugendschriften, II, 290. 


and artist, we find our common and prosaic world deficient in 
all poetic beauty, A dualism of this kind is an essential feature 
in all romantic theories of art. When Goethe began to publish 
Wilhelm Meister’s Lehrjahre the first romantic critics hailed 
the work with extravagant expressions of enthusiasm. Novalis 
saw in Goethe "the incarnation of the poetic spirit on earth." 
But as the work continued, as the romantic figure of Mignon 
and the harpist were overshadowed by more realistic characters 
and more prosaic events, Novalis grew deeply disappointed. 
He not only revoked his first judgment; he went so far as to 
call Goethe a traitor to the cause of poetry. Wilhelm Mei star 
came to be looked upon as a satire, a “Candida against po- 
etry.” When poetry loses sight of the wonderful, it loses its 
significance and justification. Poetry cannot thrive in our trivial 
and commonplace world. The miraculous, the marvelous, and 
the mysterious are the only subjects that admit of a truly po- 
etic treatment. 

This conception of poetry is, however, rather a qualification 
and limitation than a genuine account of the Creative process 
of art. Curiously enough the great realists of the nineteenth 
century had in this respect a keener insight into the art proc- 
ess than their romantic adversaries. They maintained a radi- 
cal and uncompromising naturalism. But it was precisely this 
naturalism which led them to a more profound conception of 
artistic form. Denying the “pure forms” of the idealistic 
schools they concentrated upon the material aspect of things. , 
By virtue of this sheer concentration they were able to overyj 
come the conventional dualism between the poetic and thr 
prosaic spheres, The nature of a work of art, according to the 
realists, does not depend on the greatness or smallness of its 
subject matter. No subject whatever is impermeable to the 
formative energy of art. One of the greatest triumphs of art is 
to make us see commonplace things in their real shape and in 
their true light. Balzac plunged into the most trifling features" 
of the "human comedy,” Flaubert made profound analyses of j 
the meanest characters. In some of Emile Zola's novels we 
discover minute descriptions of tire structure of a locomotive, 
of a department store, or of a coal mine. No technical detail, I 
however insignificant, was omitted from these accouaQj 



Nevertheless, running through the works of all these realists 
v great imaginative power is observable, which is by no means 
^inferior to that of the romantic writers. The fact that this 
power could not be openly acknowledged was a serious draw- 
back to the naturalistic theories of art. In their attempts to 
refute the romantic conceptions of a transcendental poetry 
they reverted to the old definition of art as an imitation of na- 
ture, In so doing they missed the principal point, since they 
■ failed to recognize the symbolic character of art. If such a 
characterization of ait were admitted, there seemed to be no 
'escape from the metaphysical theories of romanticism. Art 
is, indeed, symbolism, but the symbolism ol art must be 
understood in an immanent, not in a transcendent sense. 
Beauty is "The Infinite finitely presented” according to 
: Schelling. The real subject of art is not, however, the meta- 
' physical Infinite of Schelling, nor is it the Absolute of Hegel. 
It is to he sought in certain fundamental structural elements 
of our sense experience itself— in lines, design, in architectural, 
musical forms. These elements are, so to speak, omnipresent. 
Free of all mystery, they are patent and unconcealed; they are 
visible, audible, tangible, In this sense Goethe did not hesitate 
to say that art does not pretend to show the metaphysical 
depth of things, it merely sticks to the surface of natural 
phenomena. But this surface is not immediately given. We 
do not know it before we discover it in the works of the great 
artists. This discovery, however, is not confined to a special 
fjjeld. To the extent that human language can express every- 
thing, the lowest and the highest things, art can embrace and 
pervade the whole sphere at human experience. Nothing in® 
the physical or moral world, no natural thing and no human 
action, is by its nature and essence excluded from the realm 
of art, because nothing resists its formative and creative proc- 
ess. "Quicquid essentia dignum est," says Bacon in his 
, 4 N ovum Organum, “id etiam scientia dignum est .” 88 This 
' dictum holds for art as well as for science. 

jS6, Bacon, Novum Organum, Liber I, Aphor, CXX, 


3 The psychological theories of art have a clear and 
palpable advantage over all (he metaphysical theories, They i 
are not obliged to give a general theory of beauty. They limit 
themselves to a narrower compass, for they are concerned only 
with the fact of beauty' and with a descriptive analysis of this 
fact. The first task of psychological analysis is to determine 
the class of phenomena to which out experience of beauty be- 
longs. This problem entails no difficulty. No one could ever 
deny that the work of art gives us the highest pleasure, perhaps 
the most durable and intense pleasure of which human nature 
is capable, As soon as we choose this psychological approach 
the secret of art seems, therefore, to be solved. There is noth- 
ing less mysterious than pleasure and pain. To call into ques- 
tion these best-known phenomena-phenomena not merely of 
human life but of life in gcneral-would be absurd. Here if 
anywhere we find a doi moi pou std, a fixed and immovable 
place to stand. If we succeed in connecting our aesthetic ex- 
perience with this point there can no longer be any uncertainty 
as to the character of beauty and art. 

The utter simplicity of this solution appears to recommend 
it. On the other hand all the theories of aesthetic hedonism 
have the defects of their qualities. They begin with the state- 
ment of a simple, undeniable, obvious fact; but after the first 
few steps they fall short of their purpose and come to a sudden 
standstill. Pleasure is an immediate datum of our experience, 
But when taken as a psychological principle its meaning he-S 
comes vague and ambiguous in the extreme. The term extends 1 
over such a large field as to cover the most diverse and hetero- 
geneous phenomena. It is always tempting to introduce a 
general term broad enough to include the most disparate refer- 
ences, Yet if we yield to this temptation we are in danger of 
losing sight of significant and important differences. The sys- 
tems of ethical and aesthetic hedonism have always been 1 
prone to obliterate these specific differences. Kant stresses this 
point in a characteristic remark in the Critique of Practical 
Reason. If the determination of our will, Kant argues, rests 
upon the feeling of agreeableness or disagreeableness which 
we expect from any cause, then it is all the same to us by wha> 


J0 3 

sort of ideas we are to he affected. The only thing that concerns 
ns in making our choice is how great, how long continued, 
how easily obtained, and how often repeated this agreeable- 
ness is. 

"Just as to the man who wants money to spend, it is all the 
same whether the gold was dug out of the mountain or washed 
out of the sand, provided it is everywhere accepted at the 
same value; so the man who cares only for tire enjoyment of 
life does not ask whether the ideas are of the understanding or 
of the senses, but only how much and how great pleasure they 
will give us for the longest time.” 27 If pleasure is the common 
denominator it is only the degree, not the kind, which really 
matters-all pleasures whatever are on the same level and may 
be traced back to a common psychological and biological ori- 

In contemporary thought the theory of aesthetic hedonism 
has found its clearest expression in the philosophy of Santa- 
yana. According to Santayana beauty is pleasure regarded as 
a quality of things; it is "pleasure objectified.” But this is beg- 
ging the question. For how can pleasure-the most subjective 
state of our mind-ever be objectified? Science, says Santa- 
yana, "is the response to the demand for information, and in 
it we ask for the whole troth and nothing but the truth. Art 
is the response to the demand for entertainment, . . . and 
truth enters into it only as it subserves these ends.” 26 But if 
this were the end of art we should be bound to say that art, 
,in its highest achievements, fails to attain its real end. The 
“demand for entertainment” may he satisfied by much bettg^ 
and cheaper means. To think that the great artists worked for 
this purpose, that Michelangelo constructed Saint Peter’s Ca- 
thedral, that Dante or Milton wrote their poems, for the sake 
of entertainment, is impossible. They would undoubtedly 
have subscribed to Aristotle’s dictum that “to exert oneself 
and work for the sake of amusement seems silly and utterly* 

27. Critique of Practical Reason, tons, by T. K. Abbott (6th ed,, 
New York, Longmans, Green & Co., 1927), p. no. 

.28. The Sense of Beauty (New York, Charles Scribner's Sons, 
”'1896), p. 22. 


childish.” 211 If art is enjoyment it is not the enjoyment of 
things hut the enjoyment of forms. Delight in forms is quite 
different from delight in things or sense impressions. Forms 
cannot simply be impressed on our minds; we must produce 
them in order to feel their beauty. It is a common flaw of all 
the. ancient and modem systems of aesthetic hedonism that 
they offer us a psychological theory of aesthetic pleasure which 
completely fails to account for the fundamental fact of aes- 
thetic creativeness. In aesthetic life we experience a radical 
transformation. Pleasure itself is no longer a mere affection; it 
becomes a function. For the artist’s eye is not simply an eye 
that reacts to or reproduces sense impressions. Its activity is 
not confined to receiving or registering the impressions of out- 
ward things or to combining these impressions in new and 
arbitrary ways, A great painter or musician is not characterized ' 
by his sensitiveness to color or sounds but by his power to 
elicit from his static material a dynamic life of forms. Only 
in this sense, then, can the pleasure we find in art be ob- 
jectified. To define beauty as “pleasure objectified” contains, 
therefore, the whole problem in a nutshell. Objectification is 
always a constructive process. The physical world-the world 
of constant things and qualities — is no mere bundle of sense 
data, nor is the world of art a bundle of feelings and emotions. 
The first depends upon acts of theoretical objectification, ob- 
jectification by concepts and scientific constructs; the second 
upon formative acts of a different type, acts of contemplation. 

Other modern theories protesting against all attempts to 
identify ait and pleasure lie open to the same objection as the 
Theories of aesthetic hedonism. They tiy to find the explana- 
tion of the work of art by connecting it with other well-known 
phenomena. These phenomena are, however, on an entirely 
different level; they are passive, not active states of mind. Be- 
tween the two classes we may find some analogies but we can- 
not trace them hack to one and the same metaphysical or 
psychological origin. It is the struggle against the rationalist 
and intellectualist theories of art which is a common feature 
and a fundamental motive of these theories. French classicism 

29, Aristotle, Nicomaciiean Ethics, 1776* 33. 



had in a sense turned the work of art into an arithmetical 
problem which was to be solved by a sort of rule of three. The 
Reaction against this conception was necessary and beneficial. 
But the first romantic critics— especially the German romanti- 
cists-went immediately to the opposite extreme. They de- 
clared the abstract intellcctualism of the enlightenment to be 
a travesty upon art. We cannot understand the work of art by 
subjecting it to logical rules. A textbook on poetics cannot 
teach us how to write a good poem. For art arises from other 
and deeper sources. In order to discover these sources we must 
first forget our common standards, we must plunge into the 
mysteries of our unconscious life. The artist is a sort of som- 
nambulist who must pursue his way without the interference 
or control of any conscious activity. To awake him would be to 
^destroy his power. “It is the beginning of all poetry, “ said 
Friedrich Schlegel, “to abolish the law and method of the 
rationally proceeding reason and to plunge us once more into 
the ravishing confusion of fantasy, the original chaos of human 
nature .” 110 Art is a waking dream to which we voluntarily 
surrender ourselves. This same romantic conception has left 
its mark upon contemporary metaphysical systems. Bergson 
gave a theory of beauty which was intended as the last and 
most conclusive proof of his general metaphysical principles. 
According to him there is no better illustration of the funda- 
mental dualism, of the incompatibility, of intuition with rea- 
son than the work of art. What we call rational or scientific 
Jruth is superficial and conventional. Art is the escape from 
this shallow and narrow conventional world. It leads us back 
to the very sources of reality. If reality is “creative evolution'^ 
it is in the creativeness of art that we must seek the evidence 
for and the fundamental manifestation of the creativeness of 
life. At first sight this would appear to be a tally dynamic or 
energetic philosophy of beauty. But the intuition of Bergson 
'is not a really active principle. It is a mode of receptivity, not 
of spontaneity. Aesthetic intuition, too, is everywhere de-. 
scribed by Bergson as a passive capability, not as an active 

30, For a fuller documentation and for a criticism of these early 
romantic theories of art see Irving Babbitt, The New Laoioou, chap. 


form. . , the object of art," writes Bergson, “is to put to 
sleep the active or rather resistant powers of our personality, 
and thus to bring us into a state of perfect responsiveness, in,J 
which we realize the idea that is suggested to us and sym- 
pathize with the feeling that is expressed. In the processes of 
art we shall find, in a weakened form, a refined and in some 
measure spiritualized version of the processes commonly used 
to induce the state of hypnosis. . . . The feeling of the beau- 
tiful is no specific feeling . . . every feeling experienced by 
us will assume an aesthetic character, provided that it has 
been suggested, and not caused. . . . There are thus distinct 
phases in the progress of an aesthetic feeling, as in the state of 
hypnosis , , .” 31 Our experience of beauty is not, however, 
of such a hypnotic character. By hypnosis we may prompt a 
man to certain actions or we may force upon him some senti- 
ment. But beauty, in its genuine and specific sense, cannot be 
impressed upon our minds in this way. In order to feel it one 
must cohperate with the artist. One must not only sympathize 
with the artist's feelings hut also enter into his creative activ- 
ity. If the artist should succeed in putting to sleep the active 
powers of our personality he would paralyze our sense of 
beauty. The apprehension of beauty, the awareness of the 
dynamism of forms, cannot be communicated in this way. For 
beauty depends both on feelings of a specific kind and on an 
act of judgment and contemplation. 

One of the gieat contributions of Shaftesbury to the theory 
of art was his insistence on this point. In his "Moralists" liej 
gives an impressive account of the experience of beauty-an, 
•sxperience which he regarded as a specific privilege of human 
nature. “Nor will you deny beauty,” writes Shaftesbury, “to 
the wild field, or to these Sowers which grow around us, on 
this verdant couch. And yet, as lovely as are these forms of 
nature, the shining grass or silvered moss, the Howry thyme, 
Wild rose, or honey-suckle; ’tis not their beauty allures the 
-neighboring herds, delights the brouzing fawn, or kid and 
spreads the joy we see amidst the feeding flocks: 'Tis not the 

31. Bergson, Essai sur Jes donates immediate: de la conscience. Eng- 
lish trans, by R. L. Pogson, Time and Free Will (London, Mac. 
millan, 191a), pp. 14 ft. 



Form rejoices; but that which is beneath the form: 'tis savouri- 
ntss attracts, hunger impels; ... for never can the Form be 
of real force where it is uncontemplated, unjudged of, un- 
examined, and stands only as the accidental note or token of 
what appeases provoked sense. ... If brutes therefore . . . 
be incapable of knowing and enjoying beauty, as being brutes, 
and having sense only ... for their own share; it follows, 
that neither can man by the same sense . . . conceive or enjoy 
beauty: hut all the beauty ... he enjoys, is in a nobler way, 
and by the help of what is noblest, his mind and reason.” 82 
Shaftesbury’s praise of mind and reason was very far from the 
intellectualism of the enlightenment. His rhapsody on the 
beauty and infinite creative power of nature was an entirely 
new feature of eighteenth-century intellectual history. In this 
respect he was one of the first champions of romanticism. 
But Shaftesbury's romanticism was of a Platonic type, His 
theory of aesthetic form was 3 Platonic conception by virtue 
of which he was led to react and protest against the sensation- 
alism of the English empiricists. 88 

The objection raised against the metaphysics of Bergson 
holds also for the psychological theory of Nietzsche. In one of 
his first writings, The Birth of Tragedy from the Spirit of 
Music, Nietzsche challenged the conceptions of the great 
classicists of the eighteenth century. It is not, he argues, the 
ideal of Winckelmann that we find in Greek art. In Aeschylus, 
hi Sophocles or Euripides we seek in vain for “noble simplicity 
and quiet grandeur.” The greatness of Greek tragedy consists 
in the depth and extreme tension of violent emotions. Greek**' 
tragedy was the offspring of a Dionysian cult; its power was 
an orgiastic power. But orgy alone could not produce Greek 
drama. The force of Dionysus was counterbalanced by the 
force of Apollo. This fundamental polarity is the essence of 
every great work of art. Great art of all times has arisen from 

32. Shaftesbury, “The Moralists," sec. 2, Pt. III. See Characteristics 
(1714), II, 424 f. 

33, For a detailed discussion of Shaftesbury’s place in the philosophy 
at the eighteenth century, see Cassirer, Die phtonische Renaissance 
-in England und die Schule von Cambridge (Leipzig, 1932), chap. vi. 


the interpenetration of two opposing forces-from an orgiastic 
impulse and a visionary state. It is the same contrast as exists 
between the dream state and the state of intoxication. Both 
these states release all manner of artistic powers from within 
us, but each unfetters powers of a different kind. Dream gives 
us the power of vision, of association, of poetry; intoxication 
gives us tire power of grand attitudes, of passion, of song and 
dance. 34 Even in this theory of its psychological origin one of 
the essential features of art has disappeared. For artistic in- 
spiration is not intoxication, artistic imagination is not dream 
or hallucination. Every great work of art is characterized by a 
deep structural unity. We cannot account for this unity by 
reducing it to two different states which, like the dream state 
and the state of intoxication, are entirely diffused and dis- 
organized. We cannot integrate a structural whole out of 
amorphous elements. 

Of a different type are those theories which hope to eluci- 
date the nature of art by reducing it to the function of play, 
To these theories one cannot object that they overlook or 
underrate the free activity of man. Play is an active function; 
ft is not confined within the boundaries of the empirically 
given. On the other hand the pleasure we find in play is 
completely disinterested. None of the specific qualities and 
conditions of the work of art seems, therefore, to be missing 
in play activity. Most of the exponents of the play theory of 
art have, indeed, assured us that they were quite unable to 
find any difference between the two functions. 36 They have dej 
dared that there is not a single characteristic of art which 
r-does not apply to games of illusion, and no characteristic of 
such games which could not also be found in art. But all the 
arguments that may be alleged for this thesis are purely nega- 
tive, Psychologically speaking, play and art bear a close 
resemblance to each other. They are nonutilitarian and unre- 
lated to any practical end. In play as in art we leave behind us 
our immediate practical needs in order to give our world a 

34. Cf. Nietzsche, The Will to Power. English trims, by A. M, 
Lndovici (London, 1910), p. 240. 

3;. See, for instance Kaniad Lange, Das Weseu der Kunst (Berlin 
1901 ) . 1 vols. 



new shape. But this analogy is not sufficient to prove a real 
identity. Artistic imagination always remains sharply distin- 
rguished from that sort of imagination which characterizes our 
play activity. In play we have to do with simulated images 
which may become so vivid and impressive as to be taken for 
realities. To define art as a mere sum of such simulated images 
would indicate a very meager conception of its character and 
task. What we call “aesthetic semblance” is not the same 
phenomenon that we experience in games of illusion. Play 
gives m illusive images; art gives us a new kind of trath-a 
truth not of empirical things butof pure forms. 

In our aesthetic analysis above we distinguished between 
three different kinds of imagination : the power of invention, 
the power of personification, and the power to produce pure 
sensuous forms. In the play of a child we find the two former 
powers, but not the third. The child plays with things, the 
artist plays with forms, with lines and designs, rhythms and 
melodics. In a playing child we admire the facility and quick- 
ness of transformation. The greatest tasks are performed with 
the scantiest means. Any piece of wood may be turned into 
a living being. Nevertheless, this transformation signifies only 
a metamorphosis of the objects themselves; it does not mean a 
metamorphosis of objects into forms. In play we merely 
rearrange and redistribute the materials given to sense percep- 
tion. Art is constructive and creative in another and a deeper 
^ sense. A child at play does not live in the same world of rigid 
^empirical facts as the adult. The child’s world has a much 
’greater mobility and transmutability. Yet the playing child, 
nevertheless, does no more than exchange the actual things' 
of his environment for other possible things. No such exchange 
as this characterizes genuine artistic activity. Here the require- 
ment is much more severe. For the artist dissolves the hard 
stuff of things in the crucible of his imagination, and the 
‘result of this process is the discovery of a new world of poet- 
ical, musical, or plastic forms. To be sure, a great many' 
ostensible works of art are very far from satisfying this re- 
quirement. It is the task of the aesthetic judgment or of 
artistic taste to distinguish between a genuine work of art 
;Js nd those other spurious products which are indeed play- 



things, or at most "the response to the demand for entertain- 

A closer analysis of the psychological origin and psycho- 
logical effects of play and art leads to the same conclusion, 
Play gives us diversion and recreation but it also serves a dif- 
ferent purpose. Play has a general biological relevance in so 
far as it anticipates future activities. It has often been pointed 
out that the play of a child has a propaedeutic value. The boy 
playing war and the little girl dressing her doll are both ac- 
complishing a sort of preparation and education for other more 
serious tasks. The function of fine art cannot be accounted 
for in this manner. Here is neither diversion nor preparation. 
Some modem aestheticians have found it necessary to dis- 
tinguish sharply between two types of beauty. One is the 
beauty of “great" art; the other is described as “easy” 
beauty , 86 But, strictly speaking, the beauty of a work of art is 
never “easy.” The enjoyment of art does not originate in a 
softening or relaxing process but in intensification of all our 
energies. The diversion which we find in play is the very op- 
posite of that attitude which is a necessary prerequisite of 
aesthetic contemplation and aesthetic judgment. Art demands 
the fullest concentration. As soon as we fail to concentrate 
and give way to a mere play of pleasurable feelings and as- 
sociations, we have lost sight of the work of art as such. 

The play theory of art has developed in two entirely dif- 
ferent directions. In the history of aesthetics Schiller, Darwin,, 
and Spencer are usually regarded as the outstanding repre-'| 
sentatives of this theory. Yet it is difficult to find a point of 1 
contact between the views of Schiller and modem biological 
theories of art. In their fundamental tendency these views are 
not only divergent but in a sense incompatible. Tire very term 
“play" is understood and explained in Schiller’s accounts in 
a sense quite different from that of all the subsequent theo-, 
ries. Schiller’s is a transcendental and idealistic theory; Dar- 
win’s and Spencer's theories are biological and naturalistic. 
Darwin and Spencer regard play and beauty as general natural 

56. See Bernard Bosanquet, Three Lectures on Aesthetics, and S, 
Alexander, Beauty and Other Forms of Value. 



phenomena, while Schiller connects them with the world of 
i freedom. Ant], according to his Kantian dualism, freedom does 
*%ot signify the same thing as nature; on the contrary, it rep- 
resents the opposite pole, Both freedom and beauty belong to 
the intelligible, not to the phenomenal world. In all the nat- 
uralistic variants of the play theory of art the play of animals 
ms studied side by side with that of men. Schiller could not 
admit any such view. For him play is not a general organic 
activity but a specifically human one. “Man only plays when 
in the full meaning of the word he is a man, and he is only 
completely a mm when he plays ." To speak of an analogy, 
let alone an identity, between human and animal play or, in 
the human sphere, between the play of art and the so-called 
games of illusion, is quite alien to the theory of Schiller. To 
him this analogy would have appeared to be a basic miscon- 

If the historical background of Schiller's theory is taken into 
consideration his viewpoint is easily understandable, He did 
not hesitate to connect the “ideal” world of art with the play 
of a child because in his mind the world of the child had 
undergone a process of idealization and sublimation. For 
Schiller spoke as a pupil and admirer of Rousseau, arid he saw 
the life of the child in the new light in which the French 
philosopher had placed him. “There is deep meaning in the 
play of a child,” Schiller asserted. Yet even though we admit 
, this thesis it must be said that the “meaning” of play is dif- 
ferent from that of beauty. Schiller himself defines beauty as 
'“living form." To him the awareness of living forms is the 
first and indispensable step which leads to the experience of 
freedom. Aesthetic contemplation or reflection, according to 
Schiller, is the first liberal attitude of man toward the uni- 
verse. "Whereas desire seizes at once its object, reflection re- 
moves it to a distance and renders it inalienably her own by 
’ saving it from the greed of passion.” 18 It is precisely this 
“liberal,” this conscious and reflective attitude which is lack*' 

57, Schiller, Bricfc fiber die asttietische Erziehung des Mcnschcn 
(1795), Letter XV. English trans., Essays Aesthetics/ and Philosophi- 
cal (London, George Bell & Sons, 1916), p. 71. 

1 38. Schiller, op. at,, Letter XXV. English trans., p. 102. 


ing in a child’s play, and which marks the boundary line be- 
tween play and art. 

On the other hand this “removal to a distance’’ which is 
here described as one of the necessary and most characteristic 
features of the work of art has always proved to be a stumbling 
block for aesthetic theory. If this be true, it was objected, art 
is no longer something really human, for it has lost all con- 
nection with human life. The defenders of the principle Tart 
p out I'art did not, however, fear this objection; on the con- 
trary they openly defied it. They held it to be the highest 
merit and privilege of art that it burns all bridges linking it 
with commonplace reality. Art must remain a mystery in- 
accessible to the pmfanum vulgus. “A poem,” said Stdphane 
Mallarmd, "must be an enigma for the vulgar, chambcr-music 
for the initiated .” 89 Ortega y Gasset has written a book in 
which he foretells and defends the "dehumanization" of art, 5 
In this process he thinks that the point will at last he reached 
at which the human element will almost vanish from art , 49 
Other critics have supported a diametrically opposed thesis. 
“When wc look at a picture or read a poem or listen to music," ’ 
I. A. Richards insists, “we are not doing something quite un- I 
like what we were doing on our way to the Gallery or when we , 
dressed in the morning. The fashion in which the experience is 
caused in us is different, and as a rule the experience is more 
complex and, if we are successful, more unified. But our activ- 
ity is not of a fundamentally different kind .” 41 But 
this theoretical antagonism is no real antinomy. If beauty,; 
according to Schiller's definition is ‘diving form” it unites in A 
its natme and essence the two elements which here stand 
opposed. To he sure, it is not the same thing to live in the 
realm of forms as to live in that of things, of the empirical ob- 
jects of our surroundings. The forms of art, on the other hand, 
are not empty forms. They perform a definite task in the 
construction and organization of human experience. To live 

39. Quoted from Katherine Gilbert, Studies in Recent Aesthetic 
(Chapel Hill, 1927), p. 18. 

40. Ortega y Gasset, La dezhumaniaacidn del 1 arte (Madrid, 1925). 

41. I, A. Richards, Principles of Literary Criticism (New York, Han 
court, Brace, 1925), pp. 16-17. 



in the realm of forms does not signify an evasion of the issues 
of life; it represents, on the contrary, the realization of one of 
4 fte highest energies of life itseif. We cannot speak of art as 
“extrahuman" or “superhuman" without overlooking one of 
its fundamental features, its constructive power in the framing 
of our human universe. 

All aesthetic theories which attempt to account for art in 
terms of analogies taken from disordered and disintegrated 
spheres of human experience— from hypnosis, dream, or intox- 
ication-miss the main point. A great lyrical poet has the 
power to give definite shape to our most obscure feelings, This 
is possible only because his work, though dealing with a subject 
which is apparently irrational and ineffable, possesses a clear 
organization and articulation. Not even in the most extrava- 
gant creations of art do we ever find the “ravishing confusions 
of fantasy," the “original chaos of human nature.” Tin's defi- 
nition of art, given by the romantic writers, 42 is a contradic- 
tion in terms. Every work of art has an intuitive structure, and 
dial' means a character of rationality. Every single element 
must be felt as part of a comprehensive whole. If in a lyrical 
poem we change one of the words, an accent or a rhythm, we 
are in danger of destroying the specific tone end china of the 
poem. Art is not fettered to the rationality of things or events. 
It may infringe all those laws of probability which classical 
aestheticians declared to be the constitutional laws of art. It 
may give us the most bizarre and grotesque vision, and yet 
•retain a rationality of its own-tbe rationality of form. We 
may in this way interpret a saying of Goethe's which at first 
sight looks paradoxical, "Art: a second nature; mysterious too,” 
but more understandable, for it originates in die understand- 
ing.” 42 

Science gives us order in thoughts; morality gives os order 
in actions; art gives us order in the apprehension of visible, 
tangible, and audible appearances. Aesthetic theory was very 

42. See above, p. lfir. 

43. “Kunst: eine andere Natut, such geheimnisvoll, aber verstand- 
richer; denn sie entspringt aus dem Verstande.” See Madmen und 
jleflexionen, ed. Max Hecker, in “Schriften der Gcethe-Gesellscbaft," 
‘XXI (1907), 229. 


slow indeed to recognize and fully realize these fundamental 
differences. But if instead of seeking a metaphysical theory 
of beauty we simply analyze our immediate experience of tlj_ 
work of art we can hardly miss the mark. Art may be defineq 
as a symbolic language, But this leaves us only with the com- 
mon genus, not the specific difference. In modem aesthetics 
the interest in the common genus seems tD prevail to such a 
degree as almost to eclipse and obliterate the specific differ- 
ence. Croce insists that there is not only a close relation but a 
complete identity between language and art. To his way of 
thinking it is quite arbitrary to distinguish between the two 
activities. Whoever studies general linguistics, according. to 
Croce, studies aesthetic problems-and vice versa. There,js, 
however, an unmistakable difference between the symbols of 
art and the linguistic terms of ordinary speech or writing. 
These two activities agree neither in character nor purpqijc; 
they do not employ the same means, nor do they tend toivard 
the same ends, Neither language nor art gives us mere inj/ta- 
tion of things or actions; both are representations. But a rep- 
resentation in the medium of sensuous forms differs w% 1 ) 
from a verba! or conceptual representation. The description of 
a landscape by a painter or poet and that by a geographer or 
geologist have scarcely anything in common. Both the mode of 
description and the motive are different in the work of a 
scientist and in the work of an artist. A geographer may 
a landscape in a plastic manner, and he may even paint it"; 
rich and vivid colors. But what he wishes to convey is noHh: 
vision of the landscape but its empirical concept. To thy 
he has to compare its form with other forms; he has to ,. fl 
out, by observation and induction, its characteristic features 
The geologist goes a step farther in this empirical delineation 
He does not content himself with a record of physical^ facts 
for he wishes to divulge the origin of these facts. He 'distil 
.guishes the strata by which the soil has been built up, noting 
chronological differences; and he goes back to the genera 
causal laws according to which the earth has reached its pref 
ent shape. For the artist all these empirical relations, ajl , 
comparisons with other facts, and all this research in',,. 



relations do not exist. Our ordinary empirical concepts may 
Ire, roughly speaking, divided into two classes according as' 
icy have to do with practical or theoretical interests. The One 
class is concerned with the use of things and with the question 
‘What is that for?” The other is concerned with the causes 
of things and with the question “Whence?” But upon entering 
the realm of art we have to forget all such questions. Behind 
•the existence, the nature, the empirical properties of things, 
we suddenly discover their forms. These forms are no static ele- 
ments. What they show is a mobile order, which reveals to us 
a new horizon of nature. Even the greatest admirers of art have 
often spoken of it as if it were a mere accessory, an embellish- 
ment or ornament, of life. But this is to underrate its real 
significance and its real role in human culture. A mere dupli- 
orte of reality would always be of a very questionable value. 
C tly by conceiving art as a special direction, a new orientation, 
of our thoughts, our imagination, and our feelings, can we 
comprehend its true meaning and function. The plastic arts 
make us see the sensible world in all its richness and multi- 
' 1 iousness. What would we know of the innumerable nuances 
in the aspect of things were it not for the works of the great 
painters and sculptors? Poetry is, similarly, the revelation of 
our personal life. The infinite potentialities of which we had 
but a dim and obscure presentiment are brought to light by 
thi lyric poet, by the novelist, and by the dramatist. Such art 
in no sense mere counterfeit or facsimile, but a genuine 
f mifestation of our inner life. 

long as we live in the world of sense impressions alone 
merely touch the surface of reality. Awareness of the depth 
m things always requires an effort on the part of our active and 
Constructive energies. But since these energies do not move in 
the ame direction, and do not tend toward the same end, 
•?hey cannot give us the same aspect of reality. There is a 
conceptual depth as well as a purely visual depth. The first- 
is discovered by science; the second is revealed in art. The 
first aids us in understanding the reasons of things; the second 
„k)< j ’bg their forms. In science we try to trace phenomena 
k ' v their first causes, and to general laws and principles. 

2 l6 

In art we are absorbed m their immediate appearance, and 
we enjoy this appearance to the fullest extent in all its richness 
and variety. Here we are not concerned with the uniformity of 
laws but with the multiformity and diversity of intuitions. 
Even art may be described as knowledge, but art is knowledge 
of a peculiar and specific kind. We may well subscribe to the 
observation of Shaftesbury that “all beauty is truth.” But the 
truth of beauty does not consist in a theoretical description on 
explanation of things; it consists rather in the “sympathetic 
vision" of things . 14 The two views of truth are in contrast 
with one another, but not in conflict or contradiction. Since 
art and science move in entirely different planes they cannot 
contradict or thwart one another. The conceptual interpreta- 
tion of science does not preclude the intuitive interpretation 
of ait. Each has its own perspective and, so to speak, its own 
angle of refraction. The psychology of sense perception has 
taught us that without the use of both eyes, without a binocu- 
lar vision, there would be no awareness of the third dimension 
of space, The depth of human experience in the same sense 
depends on the fact that we are able to vary our modes of 
seeing, that we can alternate our views of reality. Remro, 
videte formas is a no less important and indispensable task 
than rerum cognoscere atuscis. In ordinary experience we con- 
nect phenomena according to the category of causality or 
finality. According as we are interested in the theoretical rea- 
sons or the practical effects of things, we think of them as 
causes or as means. Thus we habitually lose sight of thei? 
immediate appearance until we can no longer see them lace 
to face. Art, on tire other hand, teaches us to visualize, not 
merely to conceptualize or utilize, things. Art gives us a richer, 
more vivid and colorful image of reality, and a more profound 
insight into its formal structure. It is characteristic of the, 

44. See De Witt H. Parker, The Principles of Aesthetics, p. 39: 
■'"Scientific truth is the fidelity of a description to the external objects 
of experience; artistic truth is sympathetic vision — the organization 
into clearness of experience itself.” The difference between scientific 
and aesthetic experience has recently been illustrated in a very instruc- 
tive article by Prof. F. S. C. Noithrup in the review Funoso, I, No. 
4, 71 ff, 



nature of man that he is not limited to one specific and single 
approach to reality but can choose his point of view and so 
'"pass from one aspect of things to another. 

10 History 

■ After all the various and divergent definitions of the nature 
of man which had been given in the History of philosophy, mod- 
ern philosophers were often led to the conclusion that the very 
question is in a sense misleading and contradictory. In our 
modern world, says Ortega y Gasset, we are experiencing a 
breakdown of the classical, the Greek theory of being and, 
accordingly, of the classical theory of man. 

"Nature is a thing, a great thing, that is composed of many 
lesser things. Now, whatever be the differences between 
things, they all have one basic feature in common, which 
consists simply in the fact that things a re, they have their 
being. And this signifies not only that they exist, that they are, 
in front of us, but also that they possess a given, fixed structure 
or consistency. ... An alternative expression is the word 
‘nature,’ And the task of natural science is to penetrate be- 
neath changing appearances to that permanent nature or tex- 
ture. , . . To-day we know that all the marvels of the natural 
sciences, inexhaustible though they be in principle, must al- 
ways come to a full stop before flic strange reality of human 
life. Why? If all things have given up a large part of their 
secret to physical science, why does this alone hold out so 
stoutly? The explanation must go deep, down to the rootsT 
Perchance it is no less than this: that man is not a thing, that 
it is false to talk of human nature, that man has no na- 
ture. . . . Human life ... is not a thing, has not a nature, 
and in consequence we must make up our minds to think of it 
in terms and categories and concepts that will be radically 
different from such as shed light on the phenomena of mat- 
ter . . .” Till now our logic has been a logic of being, based 
upon the fundamental concepts of Eleatic thought. But with 
these concepts we can never hope to understand the distinctive 
.character of man. Eleaticism was the radical intellectualiza- 

tion of human life. It is time to break out of this magic circle. 
"In order to speak of man's being we must first elaborate a. 
non-Eleatic concept of being, as others have elaborated a noti- 
Euclidean geometry, The time has come for the seed sown 
by Heraclitus to bring forth its mighty haivest.” Having 
learned to immunize ourselves against intcllcctualism we are 
now conscious of a liberation from naturalism. “Man has no 
nature, what he hosts. . . history .” 1 

The conflict between being and becoming, which in Plato’s 
Theaetetus is described as the fundamental theme of Greek 
philosophical thought, is, however, not resolved if we pass 
from the world of nature to the world of history. Since Kant’s 
Critique of Pure Reason we conceive the dualism between 
being and becoming as a logical rather than a metaphysical, 
dualism. We no longer speak of a world of absolute change as 
opposed to another world of absolute rest. We do not regard 
substance and change as different realms of being but as cate- 
gorics— as conditions and presuppositions of our empirical 
knowledge. These categories are universal principles; they are 
not confined to special objects of knowledge. We must there- 
fore expect to find them in all forms of human experience, As' 
a matter of fact even the world of history cannot he under- 
stood and interpreted in terms of mere change. This world 
too includes a substantial element, an element of bcing-not, 
however, to he defined in the same sense as in the physical 
wotld. Without this element we could scarcely speak, as docs 
Ortega y Gasset, of history as a system , A system always pre* 
_supposes, if not an identical nature, at least an identical 
structure. As a matter of fact this structural identity-an 
identity of form, not of matter-has always been emphasized 
by the great historians. They have told us that man has a 
history because he has a nature. Such was the judgment of the- 
historians of the Renaissance, for instance, of Machiavelli, 
•and many modern historians have upheld this view. Beneath 
the temporal flux and behind the polymorphism of human 
life they have hoped to discover the constant features of 

i. Ortega y Gasset, "History as a System,” in Philosophy and His-' 
tory, Essays Presented to Ernst Cassirer, pp. 293, 294, 300, 305, 313-.’ 



human nature. In his Thoughts on World History Jakob 
Burckhardt defined the task of the historian as an attempt to 
Ascertain the constant, recurrent, typical elements, because 
such elements as these can evoke a resonant echo in our intel- 
lect and feelings . 2 

What we call "historical consciousness" is a very late prod- 
uct of human civilization. It is not to be found before the 
time of the great Greek historians. And even the Greek think- 
ers were still unable to offer a philosophical analysis of the 
specific form of historical thought. Such an analysis did not 
appear until the eighteenth century. The concept of history 
first reaches maturity in the work of Vico and Herder. When 
man first became cognizant of the problem of time, when he 
was no longer confined within the narrow circle of his imme- 
diate desires and needs, when he began to inquire into the 
origin of things, he could find only a mythical, not a historical 
origin. In order to understand the world-the physical world 
as well as the social world-he had to project it upon the 
mythical past. In myth we find the first attempts to ascertain 
a chronological order of things and events, to give a cosmology 
and a genealogy of gods and men. But this cosmology and 
genealogy do not signify a historical distinction in the proper 
sense. The past, present, and future are still tied up together; 
they form an undifferentiated unity and an indiscriminate 
whole, Mythical time has no definite structure; it is still an 
"eternal time.” From the point of view of the mythical con- 
sciousness the past has never passed away; it is always here 
and now. When man begins to unravel the complex web of the 
mythical imagination he feels himself transported into a new 
world; he begins to form a new concept of truth. 

We can follow the individual stages of this process when 
studying the development of Greek historical thought from 
'Herodotus to Thucydides. Thucydides is the first thinker to 
see and describe the history of his own times and to look hack 
at the past with a clear and critical mind. And he is aware of 

2. Jakob Burckhardt, WeUgcschichtliche Befracfitungen, ed. by Jakob 
Oeri (Berlin and Stuttgart, 1905), p. 4. English ed. by James Has- 
tings Nichols, Force and Freedom; Reflections on History (New 
Sork, Pantheon Books, 1943), p. 8a. 


the fact that this is a new and decisive step. He is convinced 
that the clear discrimination between mythical and historical 
thought, between legend and truth, is the characteristic 
true which will make his work an "everlasting possession." a 
Other great historians have felt similarly. In an autobiograph- 
ical sketch Ranke tells how he first became aware of his mis- 
sion as a historian. As a youth he was very much attracted by 
the romantic-historical writings of Walter Scott. He read ■< 
them with a lively sympathy, but he also took offense at some 
points. He was shocked when he found that the description 
of the conflict between Louis XI and Charles the Bold was in 
flagrant contradiction with the historical facts. “I studied 
Commines and the contemporary reports which are attached 
to the editions of this author and became convinced that a 
Louis XI and a Charles the Bold, as they are described iiT" 
Scott’s Quentin Durward, had never existed. In this compari- 
son I found that the historical evidence was more beautiful 
and, at any rate, more interesting than all romantic fiction. I 
turned away from it and resolved to avoid all invention and 
fabrication in my works and stick to the facts.” 1 

To define historical truth as “concordance with the facts 1 '- , 
ddaequatio res et intellectus-is however no satisfactory solu- 
tion of the problem. It begs the question instead of solving it. 
That history has to begin with facts and that, in a sense, these 
facts are not only the beginning but the end, the alpha and 
omega of our historical knowledge, is undeniable. But what is , 
a historical fact? All factual truth implies theoretical truth.'C 
When we speak of facts we do not simply refer to Our imme- 
~diate sense data, We are thinking of empirical, that is to say 
objective, facts. This objectivity is not given; it always implies 
an act and a complicated process of judgment. If we wish to 
know the difference between scientific facts— between the 
facts of physics, of biology, of history-we must, therefore,’ 
always begin with an analysis of judgments. We must study 

3. ktdma es aei, Thucydides, De hello Peioponnesiaco, I, 22. 

4. Ranke, “Aufsiitze zur rigenen Lebensgeschichte” (November, 
1885), in “Sammtliche Werke," ed, A. Dove, LIH, 6r, 

5. "Das Hbchste ware: zu begreifen, dass alles Faktische schon- 
Theorie ist.” Goethe, Miwimen und Reflerionen, p. 125. 



the modes of knowledge by which these facts are accessible. 

What makes tire difference between a physical fact and a 
^historical fact? Both are regarded as parts of one empirical 
reality; to both we ascribe objective truth. But if we wish to 
ascertain the nature of this truth, we proceed in different 
ways. A physical fact is determined by observation and experi- 
ment, This process of objectification attains its end if we suc- 
ceed in describing the given phenomena in mathematical 
language, in the language of numbers. A phenomenon which 
cannot be so described, which is not reducible to a process of 
measurement, is not a part of our physical world. Defining 
the task of physics Max Planck says that the physicist has to 
measure all measurable things and to render all unmeasur- 
able things measurable. Not all physical things or processes 
are immediately measurable; in many, if not most, cases we 
are dependent on indirect methods of verification and meas- 
urement. But the physical facts are always related by causal 
laws to other phenomena which are directly observable or 
measurable. If a physicist is in doubt about the results of an 
experiment he can repeat and correct it. He finds his objects 
.present at every moment, ready to answer his questions. But 
with the historian the case is different, His facts belong to the 
past, and the past is gone forever. We cannot reconstruct it; 
we cannot waken it to a new life in a mere physical, objective 
sense. All we can do is to “remember” it— give it a new ideal 
existence. Ideal reconstruction, not empirical observation, is 
.the first step in historical knowledge. What we call a scientific 
fact is always the answer to a scientific question which we 
have formulated beforehand. But to what can the historian 
direct this . question? He cannot confront the events them- 
selves, and he cannot enter into the forms of a former life. He 
has only an indirect approach to his subject matter. He must 
.consult his sources. But these sources are not physical things 
in the usual sense of this term. They all imply a new and 
specific moment. The historian, like the physicist, lives in £ 
material world. Yet what he finds at the very beginning of his 
research is not a world of physical objects but a symbolic 
uhiverse-a world of symbols. He must, first of all, leam to 
'read these symbols. Any historical fact, however simple it may 


appear, can only be determined and understood by such a 
previous analysis of symbols. Not things or events but docu-_ 
ments or monuments are the first and immediate objects of ' 
our historical knowledge. Only through the mediation and 
intervention of these symbolic data can we grasp the real his- 
torical data-the events and the men of the past. 

Before entering into a general discussion of the problem I 
should like to clarify this point by reference to a specific s 
concrete example, About thirty-five years ago an old Egyptian 
papyrus was found in Egypt under the dfibris of a house. It 
contained several inscriptions which seemed to be the notes 
of a lawyer or public notary concerning his business-drafts of 
testaments, legal contracts, and so on. Up to this point the 
papyrus belonged simply to the material world; it had no his- 
torical importance, and, so to speak, no historical existence^ 
But a second text was then discovered under the first which 
after a closer examination could he recognized as the rem- 
nants of four hitherto unknown comedies of Menander. At 
this moment the nature and significance of the codex changed 
completely. Here was no longer a mere “piece of matter”; 
this papyrus had become a historical document of the highest 
value and interest, It bore witness to an important stage in 
the development of Greek literature. Yet this significance was 
not immediately obvious. The codex had to he submitted to 
all sorts of critical tests, to careful linguistic, philological, 
literary, and aesthetic analysis. After this complicated process 
it was no longer a mere thing; it was charged with meaning, It, 
had become a symbol, and this symbol gave us new' insight 
into Greek culture-into Greek life and Greek poetry . 0 

All this seems obvious and unmistakable. But, curiously 
enough, precisely this fundamental characteristic of historical 
knowledge has been entirely overlooked in most of our modem 
discussions of historical method and historical truth. Most 
writers looked for the difference between history and science 
in the logic, not in the object of history. They took the greatest 
pains to construct a new logic of history. But all these attempts 

6. For details of this discovery see Gustave Lefebre, Fragments d’un 
manuscrit cte Mdnandne, ddcouverts et publics (LeCaire, Impression 
de l’Institut Franjais d’ArcMologie, 1907). 



were doomed to failure. For logic is, after all, a very simple 
and uniform thing. It is 011c because truth is one. In his quest 
:s 'of truth the historian is hound to the same formal rules as the 
scientist. In his modes of reasoning and arguing, in his 
inductive inferences, in his investigation of causes, he obeys 
the same general laws of thought as a physicist or biologist. 
So far as these fundamental theoretical activities of the hu- 
/man mind are concerned we can make no discrimination be- 
f tween the different fields of knowledge. As regards this 
problem we must subscribe to the words of Descartes: “The 
sciences taken all together are identical with human wisdom, 
which always remains one and the same, however applied to 
different subjects, and suffers no more differentiation proceed- 
ing from them than the light of the sun experiences from the 
“Variety of the things which it illumines." 7 

No matter how heterogeneous the objects of human knowl- 
edge may be, the forms of knowledge always show avr inner 
unity and a logical homogeneity. Historical and scientific 
thought arc distinguishable not by their logical form but by 
their objectives and subject matter. If we wanted to describe 
,this distinction it would not be enough to say that lire scientist 
has to do with present objects whereas the historian has to do 
with past objects. Such a distinction would be misleading, 
The scientist may very well, like the historian, inquire into 
the remote origin of things. Such an attempt, for instance, 
was made by Kant. In 1755 Kant developed an astronomical 
^theory which also became a universal history of the material 
■world. He applied the new method of physics, the Newtonian 
method, to the solution of a historical problem. In so doing 
he developed the nebular hypothesis by which he tried to 
describe the evolution of the present cosmic order from a 
former undifferentiated and unorganized state of matter. This 
■was a problem of natural history, but it was not history in the 
■ specific sense of the term. History does not aim to disclose a 
former state of the physical world but rather a former stage 

7, Descartes, Regulae ad directionem ingenu, I, “Oeuvres,” ed. 
Charles Adam and Paul Tannery (Paris, 1897 ) , X, 360. English 
,. trails. by Elizabeth S. Haldane and G. R. T. Ross, “The Philosophi- 
sed Works of Descartes" (Cambridge University Press, 1911), I, 1. 


of human life and human culture. For the solution of this 
problem it can make use of scientific methods, but it cannot i 
restrict itself only to the data available by these methods. No”k 
object whatever is exempt from the laws of nature. Historical 
objects have no separate and self-contained reality; they are 
embodied in physical objects. But in spite of this embodiment 
they belong, so to speak, to a higher dimension. What we call 
the historic sense does not change the shape of things, norv 
does it detect in them a new quality, But it docs give to 
things and events a new depth. When the scientist wishes to 
go back into the past he employs no concepts or categories 
but those of his observations of the present, He connects the 
present with the past by following backward the chain of causes 
and effects. He studies in the present the material traces left 
hy the past. This is, for instance, the method of geology of' 
paleontology. History too has to begin with these traces, for 
without them it could not take a single step. But this is only 
a first and preliminary task. To this actual, empirical recon- 
struction history adds a symbolic reconstruction. The historian 
must leam to read and interpret bis documents and monu- 
ments not only as dead remnants of the past but as living,, 
messages from it, messages addressing us in a language of their 
own. The symbolic content of these messages is, however, not 
immediately observable. It is the work of the linguist, the 
philologist, and the historian to make them speak and to make 
us understand their language. Not in the logical structure of 
historical thought but in this special task, in this special mam, 
date, consists the fundamental distinction between the works 
of the historian and tire geologist or paleontologist. If the his- 
torian fails to decipher the symbolic language of his monu- 
ments history remains to him a sealed hook. In a certain sense 
the historian is much more of a linguist than a scientist. But 
he not only studies the spoken and written languages of man-i 
kind; he tries to penetrate into the sense of all the various 
symbolic idioms. He finds his texts not merely in books, in 
annals or memoirs. He has to read hieroglyphs or cuneiform 
inscriptions, look at colors on a canvas, at statues in marble 
or bronze, at cathedrals or temples, at coins or gems, But he 
does not consider all these things simply with the mind of an, 



antiquary wlio wishes to collect and preserve the treasures of 
oklen times. What the historian is in search of is rather the 
materialization of the spirit of a former age. He detects the 
same spirit in laws and statutes, in charters and bills of right, 
in social institutions and political constitutions, in religious 
rites and ceremonies. To the true historian such material is 
not petrified fact but living form. History is the attempt to 
fuse together all these disjecta membra, the scattered limbs 
of the past and to synthesize them and mold them into new 

Among the modern founders of a philosophy of history 
Herder had the clearest insight into this side of the historical 
process. His works give us not merely a recollection but a 
resurrection of the past. Herder was no historian in the proper 
sense. He has left us no great historical work. And even his 
philosophical achievement is not to be compared with the 
work of Hegel. Nevertheless, he was the pioneer of a new ideal 
of historical truth. Without him the work of Ranke or Hegel 
would not have been possible. For he possessed the great per- 
sonal power of revivifying the past, of imparting an eloquence 
to all the fragments and remnants of man's moral, religious, 
and cultural life. It was this feature of Herder's work which 
aroused the enthusiasm of Goethe. As he wrote in one of his 
letters, he did not find in Herder's historical descriptions the 
mere "husk and shell of human beings,” What excited his 
profound admiration was Herder’s "manner of sweeping-not 
simply sifting gold out of the rubbish, but regenerating the 
rubbish itself to a living plant ." 8 

It is this “palingenesis," this rebirth of the past, which 
marks and distinguishes the great historian. Friedrich Schlegel 
called the historian einen rikkwdrts gekehrten Pmpheten, a 
retrospective prophet . 0 There is also a prophecy of the past, a 
revelation of its hidden life. History cannot predict the events 
to come; it can only interpret the past. But human life is an 

8 , “Deine Art zu fegen — und nicht etrva aus dera Kehricht, Gold vi 
sieben, sondem den Kehricht zur lebendigen Fflanze umzupalin- 
genesieren, legt mich immer auf die Knic meines Herzens." Goethe 
on Herder, May 1775, Brieie (Weimar ed.) , II, 262, 

9, "AthenSumsfragmcnte," 80, op. cit., XI, 215. 


organism in which all elements imply and explain each other. 
Consequently a new understanding of the past gives us at the 
same time a new prospect of the future, which in turn be- 
comes an impulse to intellectual and social life. For this 
double view of the world in prospect and in retrospect the 
historian must select his point of departure. He cannot find 
it except in his own time. He cannot go beyond the conditions 
of his present experience. Historical knowledge is the answer 
to definite questions, an answer which must be given by the 
past; but the questions themselves are put and dictated by 
the present-by our present intellectual interests and our 
present moral and social needs. 

This connection between present and past is undeniable; 
but we may draw from it very different conclusions concern- 
ing the certainty and value of historical knowledge. In con- 
temporary philosophy Croce is the champion of the most 
radical "historicism.” To him history is not merely a special 
province but the whole of reality. His thesis that all history 
is contemporary history leads, therefore, to a complete identi- 
fication of philosophy and history. Above and beyond the hu- 
man realm of history there is no other realm of being, no 
other subject matter for philosophical thought . 10 The oppo- 
site inference was drawn by Nietzsche. He, too, insisted that 
“we can only explain the past by what is highest in the pres- 
ent.” But this assertion served him only as a starting point 
for a violent attack on the value of history. In his “Thoughts 
out of Season, 1 ' with which he began his work as a philosopher 
and as a critic of modem culture, Nietzsche challenged the 
so-called “historic sense” of our times. He tried to prove that 
this historic sense, far from being a merit and privilege of our 
cultural life, is its intrinsic danger. It is a malady from which 
we suffer. History has no meaning except as the servant of 
life and action. If the servant usurps the power, if he sets us 
as the master, he obstructs the energies of life. By excess of 
hiStory our life has become maimed and degenerate. It hin- 
ders the'mighty impulse to new deeds and paralyzes the doer. 

10. For this problem see Guido Calogero, “On the So-Called Iden- 
tity of History and Philosophy," in Philosophy and History, Essays 
Presented to Ernst Cassirer, pp. 35-52. 



For most of us can only do if we forget. The unrestricted his- 
, toric sense pushed to its logical extreme uproots the future . 11 
But this judgment depends on Nietzsche’s artificial discrimi- 
nation between the life of action and the life of thought. 
When Nietzsche made this attack he was still an adherent and 
pupil of Schopenhauer's. He conceived life as the manifesta- 
tion of a blind will. Blindness came to be the very condition 
for Nietzsche of the truly active life; thought and conscious- 
ness were opposed to vitality. If we reject this presupposition 
Nietzsche’s consequences become untenable. To be sure our 
consciousness of tire past should not enfeeble or cripple our 
active powers. If employed in the right way it gives us a freer 
survey of the present and strengthens oui responsibility with 
, regard to the future. Man cannot mold the form of the future 
without being aware of his present conditions and of the 
limitations of his past. As Leibniz used to say; on recisde pour 
mieux setuter, one draws back to leap higher. Heraclitus 
coined for the physical world the maxim hodos and kettd mid, 
the way up and the way down are one and the same . 12 We 
can in a sense apply the same statement to the historical 
world. Even our historical consciousness is a “unity of oppo- 
sites”; it connects the opposite poles of time and gives us 
thereby our feeling for the continuity of human culture. 

This unity and continuity become especially clear in the 
field of our intellectual culture, in the history of mathematics 
or science or philosophy. Nobody could ever attempt to write 
• a histoiy of mathematics or philosophy without having a clear 
insight into the systematic problems of the two sciences. The 
facts of the philosophical past, the doctrines and systems of 
the great thinkers, are meaningless without an interpretation. 
And this process of interpretation never comes to a complete 
standstill. As soon as we have reached a new center and a new 
line of vision in our own thoughts we must revise our judg-. 
ments, No example is perhaps more characteristic and 
instructive in this respect than the change in our pbrtrait'of 

n. Nietzsche, Vom Nutzen und Nachteil der Histone tilr das Lcben, 
in “Unzeit gemasse Betrachtungen" (1874), Pt. Ill, English Pans, 
ed. by Oscar Levy, Vol. II. 

‘ iz, Fragment 60, in Diels, Die Fragments der Vorsokratiker, I, 164. 

22 8 

Socrates. We have the Socrates of Xenophon and Plato; we 
have a Stoic, a sceptic, a mystic, a rationalistic, and a romantic 
Socrates. They are entirely dissimilar. Nevertheless they are' 
not untrue; each of them gives us a new aspect, a characteristic 
perspective of the historical Socrates and his intellectual and 
moral physiognomy. Plato saw in Socrates the great dialecti- 
cian and the great ethical teacher; Montaigne saw in him the 
antidogmatic philosopher who confessed his ignorance; Fried- 
rich Schlegel and the romantic thinkers laid the empha- 
sis upon Socratic irony. And in the case of Plato himself we 
can trace the same development. We have a mystic Plato, 
the Plato of neo-Platonism; a Christian Plato, the Plato of 
Augustine and Marsilio Ficino; a rationalistic Plato, the Plato 
of Moses Mendelssohn; and a few decades ago we were offered 
a Kantian Plato. We may smile at all these different interpre-' 
tations. Yet they have not only a negative but also a positive 
side. They have all in their measure contributed to an under- 
standing and to a systematic valuation of Plato’s work. Each 
has insisted on a certain aspect which is contained in this 
work, hut which could only be made manifest by a compli- 
cated process of thought. When speaking of Plato in his 
Critique of Pure Reason Kant indicated this fact. \ . . it is 
by no means unusual," he said, "upon comparing the thoughts 
which an author has expressed in regard to his subject, . . . 
to find that we understand him better than ho has understood 
himself. As he has not sufficiently determined his concept, he 
has sometimes spoken, or even thought, in opposition to his- 
own intention." 13 The history of philosophy shows us very 
clearly that the full determination of a concept is very rarely 
the work of that thinker who first introduced that concept. 
For a philosophical concept is, generally speaking, rather a 
problem than five solution of a problem-and the full signifi- 
cance of this problem cannot be understood so long as it is 
still in its first implicit state. It must become explicit in order 
to be comprehended in its true meaning, and this transition 
from an implicit to an explicit state is the work of the future. 

13. Kant, Critique of Pure Reason (2d ed,), p. 370. Trans, by 
Norman Kemp Smith (London, Macmillan, 1929), p. 310, 



It may be objected that this continuous process of interpre- 
, tation and reinterpretation is indeed necessary in the history 
of ideas, but that the necessity no longer holds when we come 
to “real” history~to the history of man and human actions. 
Here it would seem as though we had to do with hard, obvious, 
palpable facts, facts which have simply to be related in order 
to be known. But not even political history forms an exception 
to the general methodological rule. What holds for the inter- 
pretation of a great thinker and his philosophical works holds 
also for judgments concerning a great political character. 
Friedrich Gundolf has written a whole book not about Caesar 
but about the history of Caesar’s fame and the varying inter- 
pretations of his character and political mission from antiquity 
down to our own time . 14 Even in our social and political life 
many fundamental tendencies prove their full force and 
significance only at a relatively late stage. A political ideal and 
a social program, long since conceived in an implicit sense, 
become explicit through a later development. . . many 
ideas of the germinal American,” writes S. E, Morison in his 
history of the United States, "can be traced back to the 
mother country. In England these ideas persisted through the 
centuries despite a certain twisting and thwarting at the hands 
of Tudor monarchs and Whig aristocrats; in America they 
found opportunity for free development. Thus we . . . find 
stout old English prejudices embalmed in the American Bills 
of Rights, and institutions long obsolete in England . . . 
lasting with little change in the American States until the mid- 
dle of the nineteenth century. It was an unconscious mission 
of the United States to make explicit what had long been 
implicit in the British Constitution, and to prove the value of 
principles that had largely been forgotten in the England of 
George III .” 18 In political history it is by nD means the bare 
facts which interest ns. We wish to understand not only the 
actions but the actors. Our judgment of the course of political 
events depends upon our conception of the men who were 

14. Friedrich Gundolf, Caesar, Geschichte seines Ruhm (Berlin, 

15, S. E. Morison, The Oxford History of the United States (Oxford, 
Clarendon Press, 1927), I, 39 f. 


engaged in them. As soon as we see tliese individual men in 
a new light we have to alter oar ideas of the events. Yet even 
so a true historical vision is not to be attained without a con- ' 
stant process of revision. Fcnero’s Greatness and Decline of 
Rom differs on many important points from Mommsen's 
description of the same period. This disagreement is to a large 
extent due to the fact that the two authors have an entirely 
different conception of Cicero. In order to form a just judg- » 
ment of Cicero it is not sufficient, however, simply to know 
all the events of his consulate, the part he played in the dis- 
closure of the Catiline conspiracy or in the civil wars between 
Pompey and Caesar. All these matters remain dubious and 
ambiguous so long as I do not know the man, so long as I do 
not understand his personality and character. To this end 
some symbolic interpretation is required. I must not only ” 
study his orations or his philosophical writings; I must read 
his letters to his daughter Tullia and his intimate friends; I 
must have a feeling for the charms and defects of his personal 
style, Only hy taking all this circumstantial evidence together 
can I arrive at a true picture of Cicero and his role in the 
political life of Rome. Unless the historian remains a mere 
annalist, unless he contents himself with a chronological nar- 
ration of events, he must always perform this very difficult 
task; he must detect the unity behind innumerable and often 
contradictory utterances of a historical character. 

To illustrate this point I wish to quote another character- 
istic example taken from the work of Feriero. One of the.: 
most important events in Roman history-an event which de- 
cided the future destiny of Rome and, consequently, the 
future of the world-was the Battle of Actium. The usual 
version is that Antony lost this battle because Cleopatra, who 
was frightened and despaired of the issue, turned her vessel 
about and fled, Antony decided to follow her, abandoning 
hjs soldiers and friends for the sake of Cleopatra. If this tradi- 
tional version is correct, then we must subscribe to Pascal’s 
saying; we must admit that, had Cleopatra’s nose been shorter, 
the whole face of the earth would have been changed , 18 

i6. Pascal, Pensdes, ed. Louandre, p, 196. 



But Fcrrero reads the historical text in a quite different 
„ manner. He declares the love story of Antony and Cleo- 
patra to be a legend. Antony, he tells us, did not marry Cleo- 
patra because he was passionately in love with her. On the 
contrary, Antony was pursuing a great political plan. "Antony 
wanted Egypt and not the beautiful person of its queen; he 
meant by this dynastic marriage to establish the Roman pro- 
tectorate in the valley of the Nile, and to be able to dispose, 
for the Persian campaign, of the treasures of the Kingdom of 
the Ptolemies. . . . With a dynastic marriage, he was able to 
secure for himself all the advantages of effective possession, 
without running the risks of annexation; so he resolved upon 
this artifice which . . . had probably been imagined by 
, Caesar. . . . The romance of Antony and Cleopatra covets, 
at least in its beginnings, a political treaty. With the marriage, 
Cleopatra seeks to steady her wavering power; Antony, to 
place the valley of the Nile under the Roman protectorate, 
. . . The actual history of Antony and Cleopatra is one of the 
most tragic episodes of a struggle that lacerated the Roman 
Empire for four centuries, until it finally destroyed it, the 
struggle between the Orient and Occident. . . . In the light 
of these considerations, the conduct of Antony becomes very 
clear. The marriage at Antioch, by which lie places Egypt 
under the Roman protectorate, is the decisive act of a policy 
that looks to transporting the centre of his government toward 
_ the Orient . . 17 

If we accept this interpretation of the characters of Antony 
and Cleopatra then individual events, even the Battle of 
Actium, appear in a new and different light. Antony’s flight 
from the battle, declares Fetrero, was by no means induced 
by fear, nor was it an act of blind and passionate love. It was 
a political act carefully thought out beforehand. "With the 
obstinacy, the certainty and the vehemence of an ambitious 
woman, of a confident and self-willed queen, Cleopatra streve 
to persuade the triumvir ... to fall back upon Egypt by 

17. Guglielmo Ferrero, "The Histoiy and Legend of Antony and 
Cleopatra,” in Characters and Events 0/ Roman History, from Caesar 
to Nero (New York, G. P, Putnam’s Sons, 1909), pp. 39-68. 


sea. ... At the beginning of |uly Antony seems to have con- 
templated the abandonment of the wav and a return to 
Egypt. It was impossible, however, to proclaim his intention 
of leaving Italy to Octavianus, of deserting the republican 
cause and betraying the Roman senators, who had left Italy 
for liis sake. Cleopatra’s ingenuity therefore conceived another 
device; a naval battle to mask the retreat was to be fought. 
Part of the army should be sent on board the fleet, other 
troops should he despatched to guard the most important 
points in Greece; the fleet should sail out in order of baffle 
and should attack if the enemy advanced; then sail would be 
made for Egypt," 18 

I am not setting forward here any opinion as to the correct- 
ness of this statement. What I wish to illustrate by this ex- , 
ample is the general method of the historical interpretation of 
political events. In physics the facts are explained when we 
succeed in arranging than in a threefold serial order: in the 
order of space, time, cause and effect. Thereby they become 
fully determined; and it is just this determination which we 
mean when speaking of the truth or reality of physical facts. 
The objectivity of historical facts belongs, however, to a dif- 
ferent and higher order. Here too wc have to do with 
determining the place and the time of events. But when it 
comes to the investigation of their causes we have a new prob- 
lem to face. If we knew all the facts in their chronological 
order we should have a general scheme and a skeleton of 
history; but we should not have its real life. Yet an under- 
standing of human life is the general theme and the ultimate 
aim of historical knowledge. In history we regard all the works 
of man, and all his deeds, as precipitates of his life; and we 
wish to reconstitute them into this original state, wc wish to 
understand and feel the life from which they are derived. 

In this respect historical thought is not the reproduction, 
but the reverse, of tire actual historical process. In our histori- 
cal documents and monuments we find a past life which has 

18. Ferrero, Grandezza e decadenza di Roma (Milan, 1007), HI, 
502-539. English trans. by H. J. Chaytor, Greatness and Decline of 
Rome (New York, G. P. Putnam’s Sons, 1908), IV, 95 3 . 


assumed a certain form. Man cannot live his life without con- 
stant efforts to express it. The modes of this expression are 
variable and innumerable. But they are all so many testimo- 
nies of one and the same fundamental tendency. Plato's 
theory of love defines love as a desiie for immortality. In love 
man strives to break the chain of his individual and ephemeral 
existence. This fundamental instinct may be satisfied in two 
ways. "Those who are pregnant in the body only betake them- 
selves to women and beget children— this is the character of 
their love; their offspring, as they hope, will preserve their 
memory and give them blessedness and immortality. . . . 
But souls which are pregnant conceive that which is proper for 
the soul to conceive or contain.” 10 

Hence a culture may be described as the product and off- 
spring of this Platonic love. Even in the most primitive stage 
of human civilization, even in mythical thought, we find this 
passionate protest against the fact of death. 20 In the higher 
cultural strata-in religion, art, history, philosophy— this pro- 
test assumes a new shape. Man begins to detect in himself 
a new power by which he dares to challenge the power of 
time. He emerges from the mere flux of things, striving to 
eternize and immortalize human life, The Egyptian pyramids 
seem to be built for eternity. The great artists think and speak 
of their works as monumenta acre parennius. They feel sure 
they have raised a monument which shall not be destroyed by 
the countless years and the flight of ages. But this claim is 
bound to a special condition. In ofder to endure, the works of 
man must be constantly renewed and restored. A physical 
tiling remains in its present state of existence through its 
physical inertia. It retains its same nature so long as it is not 
altered or destroyed by external forces. But human works are 
vulnerable from a quite different angle. They are subject to 
change and decay not only in a material but also in a mental 
sense. Even if their existence continues they are in constant 
danger of losing their meaning. Their reality is symbolic, not 
physical; and such reality never ceases to require interpreta- 

19. Plato, Symposium, 208-209; Jowett tarns,, I, 579 £. 

20. See above, p. 115-114. 

a 34 

tion and reinterpretation. And this is where the great task of 
history begins. The thought of the historian beais quite a 
different relation to its object from that of the physicist or 
naturalist. Material objects maintain their existence inde- 
pendently of the work of the scientist, but historical objects 
have true being only so long as they are remembered-and 
the act of remembrance must be unbroken and continuous. 
The historian must not only observe his objects like the na- 
turalist; he must preserve them. His hope of keeping them in 
their physical existence can be frustrated at any moment. By 
the fire which destroyed the library of Alexandria innumerable 
and invaluable documents were lost forever. But even the 
surviving monuments would gradually fade away if they were 
not constantly kept alive by the art of the historian, In order 
to possess the world of culture we must incessantly reconquer 
it by historical recollection. But recollection does not mean 
merely the act of reproduction. It is a new intellectual syn- 
thesis-a constructive act. In this reconstruction the human 
mind moves in the opposite direction from that of the original 
process. All works of culture originate in an act of solidifica- 
tion and stabilization. Man could not communicate his 
thoughts and feelings, and he could not, accordingly, live in 
a social world, if he had not the special gift of objectifying 
his thoughts, of giving them a solid and permanent shape. 
Behind these fixed and static shapes, these petrified works of 
human culture, history detects the original dynamic impulses, 
It is the gift of the great historians to reduce all mere facts to ' 
their fieri, all products to processes, all static things or 
institutions to their creative energies. The political historians 
give us a life full of passions and emotions, violent struggles of 
political parties, of conflicts and wars between different na- 

But not all this is necessary to give to a historical work its 
dynamic character and accent. When Mommsen wrote his 
Roman History he spoke as a great political historian and in a 
new and modem tone. “I wanted to bring down the ancients,” 
he said in a letter, "from the fantastic pedestal on which 
they appear into the real world. That is why the consul had 



to become the burgomaster. Perhaps I have overdone it; but 
my intention was sound enough.” 21 Mommsen’s later works 
"appear to be conceived and written in an entirely different 
style. Nevertheless they do not lose their dramatic character, 
It may appear paradoxical to attribute such a character to 
works which deal with the most arid subjects, as, for instance, 
the history of coinage or of Roman public law, But it is all 
done in the same spirit. Mommsen’s Romisahes Staatsrecht 
is not a mere codification of constitutional laws. These laws 
are filled with life; we feel behind them the great powers 
which were necessary to build up such a system. We feel the 
great intellectual and moral forces which alone could produce 
this organism of Roman law; the gift of the Roman spirit for 
^ordering, organizing, and commanding. Here too Mommsen's 
intention was to show us the Roman world in the mirror of 
Roman law. “As long as jurisprudence ignored the State and 
the people,” he said, “and history and philology ignored law, 
both knocked in vain at the door of the Roman world.” 

If we understand the task of history in this way many of the 
problems which in the last decades have been discussed so 
eagerly and have found such diverse and divergent answers 
can be disentangled without difficulty. Modern philosophers 
have often attempted to construct a special logic of history. 
Natural science, they have told us, is based upon a logic of 
universal, history upon a logic of individuals. Windelband 
declared the judgment of natural science to be nomothetic, 
Those of history to be idiographic , 22 The former give us gen- 
eral laws; the latter describe particular facts. This distinction 
became the basis of Rickerfs whole theory of historical 
knowledge. "Empirical reality becomes nature, if we consider 
it with regard to the universal; it becomes history, if we con- 
sider it with regard to the particular.” 23 

21. Mommsen in a letter to Hen2en; quoted after G, P. Gooch, His- 
tory and Historians in the Nineteenth Century (London, Longmans, 
Green & Co., 1913; new ed. 1935), p. 457. 

22. Windelband, “Geschichte und Naturwissenschaft,” in Praludien 
(5th ed. Tiibingen, 1915), Vol. II. 

23. Rickert, Die Grenzen der naturwissenschaftfichen Begrihsbildung 
'{Tiibingen, 1902), p. 253, 


But it is not possible to separate the two moments of uni- 
versality and particularity in this abstract and artificial way. A 
judgment is always the synthetic unity of both moments; it 
contains an element of universality and of particularity. These 
elements are not mutually opposed; they imply and inter- 
penetrate one another. “Universality" is not a term which 
designates a certain field of thought; it is an expression of the 
very' character, of the function of thought. Thought is always ’ 
universal. On the other hand the description of particular 
facts, of a "here" and “now,” is by no means a privilege of 
history. The uniqueness of historical events has often been 
thought to be the character distinguishing history from 
science, Yet ibis criterion is not sufficient. A geologist who 
gives us a description of the various states of the earth in,_ 
different geological periods gives us a report on concrete and 
unique events. These events cannot be repeated; they will not 
occur in the same order a second time. In this respect the 
description of the geologist docs not differ from that of a 
historian who, for instance, lake Gregorovius tells us the story 
of the city of Rome in the Middle Ages. But the historian 
does not merely give us a scries of events in a definite chrono- 
logical order. For him these events arc only the husk beneath 
which he looks for a human and cultural life— a life of actions 
and passions, of questions and answers, of tensions and solu- 
tions. The historian cannot invent a new language and a new 
logic for all this. He cannot think or speak without using 
general terms. But he infuses into his concepts and words 1 
his own inner feelings, and thus gives them a new sound and 
a new color— the color of a personal life. 

The fundamental dilemma of historical thought begins at 
precisely this point. Undoubtedly it is the richness and variety, 
the depth and intensity, of his personal experience which is. 
the distinctive mark of the great historian. Otherwise his work 
would remain lifeless and colorless. But how can we hope in 
this way to attain the ultimate objective of historical knowl- 
edge, how can we find out the truth of things and events? Is 
not a personal truth a contradiction in terms? Ranke once ex- 
pressed the wish to extinguish his own self in order to make 



himself the pure mirror of things, in order to see tine events in 
the way in which they actually occurred. It is clear, however, 
that this paradoxical statement was intended as a problem, 
not as a solution. If the historian succeeded in effacing his 
personal life he would not thereby achieve a higher objectivity. 
He would on the contrary deprive himself of the very instru- 
ment of all historical thought. If I put Dut the light of my 
own personal experience I cannot see and I cannot judge of the 
experience of others. Without a rich personal experience in 
the field of art no one can write a history of art; no one but a 
systematic thinker can give us a history of philosophy. The 
seeming antithesis between the objectivity of historical truth 
and the subjectivity of the historian must be solved in a differ- 
ent way. 

Perhaps the best solution is to he found not in Ranke’s 
words but in his works. Here we find the true explanation of 
what historical objectivity really means and what it does not 
mean. When Ranke published his first writings his ideal of 
historical truth was by no means generally understood by his 
contemporaries. Plis work was subjected to violent attacks. A 
well-known historian, Heinrich von Leo, reproached Ranke 
for his “timid avoidance of personal views"; he contemptu- 
ously described Ranke’s writings as porcelain painting, the 
delight of ladies and amateurs. Nowadays such a judgment 
would appear not only utterly unjust but absurd and gro- 
tesque. Nevertheless it was repeated by later critics, es- 
pecially by the historians of the Prussian School. Heinrich 
von Treitschke complained of Ranke’s bloodless objectivity, 
“which does not say which side the narrator’s heart is on.” 24 
Sometimes Ranke’s adversaries in mocking tones compared 
his attitude and personal style to the attitude of the sphinxes 
in the second part of Goethe’s Faust: 

Sitzen vor den Pyramiden, 

Zu der Volker Plochgericht; 

34. For this criticism of Ranke’s work see G. P. Gooch, op. eft., 
chaps, vi, viii. 


Uberschwenimung, Krieg nnd Frieden- 
Und verziehen kein Gesicht . 26 

Such sarcasm is, however, very superficial. No one can study 
Ranke's writings without being aware of the depth of his per- 
sonal life and of his religious feeling, This feeling pervades all 
of his historical work, But Ranke’s religious interest was broad 
enough to cover the whole field of religious life. Before ven- 
turing upon his description of the Reformation he had 
finished his great work on the I-Iisfory of the Popes. It was 
precisely the peculiar character of liis religious sense which 
forbade him to treat religions questions in the manner of a 
zealot or in that of a mere apologist. He conceived history 
as a perpetual conflict between great political and religions 
ideas. To see this conflict in its true light he had to study alt’ 
the parties and all the actors in this historical play. Ranke’s 
sympathy, the sympathy of the true historian, is of a specific 
type. It docs not imply friendship or partisanship. It embraces 
friends and opponents, This form of sympathy may best be 
compared to that of the great poets. Euripides does not sym- i 
pathize with Medea; Shakespeare docs not sympathize with 1 
Lady Macbeth or Richard III. Nevertheless they make us un- 
derstand these characters; they enter into their passions and 
motives. The saying tout comprendre est tout pmhnner 
holds neither for the works of the great artists nor for those of 
the great historians. Their sympathy implies no moral judg- . 
ment, no approbation or disapproval of single acts. Of couvsfi, 
the historian is entirely at liberty to judge, but before he ; 
judges he wishes to understand and interpret. 

Schiller coined the dictum Die Weltgeschichle ist das 
Weltgericht, a saying re-echoed by Hegel and made one of 
the keystones of his philosophy of history. "The lots and 
deeds of the particular states and of the particular minds,”' 
said Hegel, "are the phenomenal dialectic of the finitude of 

2’;. Faust, Pt. II, “Classische Walpurgisnacht.” G. M. Priest trans- 
lates as follows (New York, Knopf, 1941): 

"At the pyramids out station 
We look on the doom of races, 

War and peace and inundation, 

With eternal changeless faces." a 



these minds out of which arises the universal mind, the un- 
limited mind of the world. This mind wields its right-and 
its right is the higlicst-in them; in universal history, the 
judgment of the world. The history of the world is the judg- 
ment of the world, because it contains, in its self-dependent 
universality, all special forms— the family, civil society, and 
nation, reduced to ideality, i. e., to subordinate but organic 
f members of itself. It is the task of the spirit to produce all 
these special forms .” 20 Even Ranke, however opposed to 
Hegel’s fundamental views, could have subscribed to this one. 
But he conceived the mission of the historian in a less pre- 
sumptuous way. He thought that in the great trial of the 
history of the world the historian had to prepare, not to 
.pronounce, the judgment. This is very far from moral indif- 
ference; it is, On the contrary, a feeling of the highest moral 
responsibility. According to Ranke the historian is neither the 
prosecutor not the counsel fox the defendant. If he speaks as 
a judge, he speaks as the juge d'instruction. He has to collect 
all the documents in the case in order to submit then) to the 
highest court of law, to the history of the world. If lie fails in 
’this task, if by party favoritism or hatred he suppresses or 
falsifies a single piece of testimony, then he neglects his 
supreme duty, 

This ethical conception of his task, of the dignity and re- 
sponsibility of the historian, is one of Ranke’s principal merits 
and gave to his work its great and free horizon. His universal 
'sympathy could embrace all ages and all nations. 1 ” He was 
able to write the history of the Popes and the history of the 
Reformation, the history of France and the history of Eng- 
land, his work on the Ottomans and the Spanish Monarchy, 
in the same spirit of impartiality and without national bias. 
-To him the Latin and Teutonic nations, the Greeks and 

2d. Hegel, Rechtspbilosophie, sees, 340 f. English trans. of the last 
two sentences by J. Macbridc Stenett, The Ethics of Hegel, Trans- 
lated Selections from his “Keeiitsphilosophie” (Boston, Ginn & Co., 
1893), p. 207, 

27, In an excellent appraisal of Ranke's personality and work Alfred 
Dove mentions his “Universalitiit des Mitempfmdens,” See Dove, 
'Ausgcwahlte Schriftchea {1898), pp. 112 ff. 


Romans, the Middle Ages and the modem national states 
signified one coherent organism. Every new work permitted 
him to enlarge his historical horizon and to offer a freer and 
broader prospect. 

Many of Ranke’s adversaries who did not possess this free 
and detached spirit tried to make a virtue of necessity. They 
asserted that it was impossible to write a work of political 
history without political passions and without national partial- 
ity. Treitschke, a representative of the Prussian School, even 
refused to study the material of non-Prussian archives. He 
feared lest he should be disturbed by such a study in his 
favorable judgment of Prussian politics . 28 Such an attitude 
may be understandable and excusable in a political pamphlet- 
eer or propagandist. But in a historian it symbolizes the., 
breakdown and bankruptcy of historical knowledge. We may 
compare this attitude to the frame of mind of those adversar- 
ies of Galileo who consistently refused to look through the 
telescope and convince themselves of tire truth of Galileo’s 
astronomical discoveries because they did not wish to be 
disturbed in their implicit faith in the Aristotelian system. To 
Such a conception of history we may oppose the words of 
Jakob Burckhardt, "Beyond the blind praise of our own 
country, another and more onerous duty is incumbent upon ns 
as citizens, namely to educate ourselves to be comprehending 
human beings, for whom truth and the kinship with things of 
tire spirit is the supreme good, and who can elicit our true 
duty as citizens from that knowledge, even if it were not in-" - 
nate in us. In the realm of thought, it is supremely just and 
right that all frontiers should he swept away . 20 

As Schiller says in bis Aesthetic Letters there is an art of 

28. See Ed. Fueter, Gcschichte der ncueren Historiographic (3d ed, 
Munich and Berlin, 1936), p. 543. 

29. “Es gibt abet neben dem blinden Lobpreisen der Heimat eine 

ganz andere und setnverere Pfticbl, nSmlich sich auszubilden rum 
etkennenden Menschen, dem die Wahibeit und die Verwandtschaft 
mit diem Geistigcn fiber allcs gelit und der airs dieser Erkenntnis 
auch seine Biiigerpflicht wiirde ermitteln konnen, wenn sie ihm 
nicht sehon mit seinem Temperament eingebaren ist. Vollends im 
Reiche des Gedankens gehen alle Schlagbaume billig in die Hohe.’’ 
Jakob Burckhatdt, op. cit., p, n, English turns., p. 89. ~ 



passion, but there cannot be a "passionate art ." 80 This same 
view of the passions applies also to history. The historian 
'"who was ignorant of the world of passions-of political ambi- 
tions, of religious fanaticism, and of economic and social con- 
, flicts-would give ns a very dry abstract of historical events. 
But if he lays any claim to historical truth he himself cannot 
remain in this world. To all this material of the passions he 
,’must give theoretical form; and this form, like the form of the 
work of art, is no product and outgrowth of passion. History is 
a history of passions; but if history itself attempts to be pas- 
sionate it ceases to be history. The historian must not exhibit 
the affections, the furies and frenzies which he describes. His 
sympathy is intellectual and imaginative, not emotional. The 
personal style which we feel in every line of a great historian 
'is not an emotional or rhetorical style. A rhetorical style may 
have many merits; it may move and delight the reader. But it 
misses the principal point: it cannot lead us to an intuition 
and to a free and unbiased judgment of things and events. 

If we bear in mind this character of historical knowledge, it 
is easy to distinguish historical objectivity from that form of 
•objectivity which is the aim of natural science. A great scien- 
tist, Max Planck, described the whole process of scientific 
thought as a constant effort to eliminate all “anthropological” 
elements. We must forget man in order to study nature and to 
discover and formulate the laws of nature . 81 In the develop- 
ment of scientific thought the anthropomorphic element is 
progressively forced into the background until it entirely dis- 
appears in the ideal structure of physics. History proceeds in a 
quite different way, It can live arid breathe only in the human 
world. Like language or art, history is fundamentally anthro- 
pomorphic, To efface its human aspects would be to destroy 
its specific character and nature. But the anthropomorphism 
’of historical thought is no limitation of or impediment to its 
objective truth. History is not knowledge of external facts or 
events; it is a form of self-knowledge. In order to know mysjjlf 

30. Essays Aesthetical and Philosophical, Letter XXII. 

31. See Max Planck, Die Einheit des physihliscfren Weltbildes 
(Leipzig, 1909). For further details see Cassirer, Substance and Func- 
tion, English trans. by W. C. and M. C. Swabey (1923), pp. 306 if. 


I cannot endeavor to go beyond myself, to leap, as it were, 
over my own shadow. 1 must choose the opposite approach. 
In history man constantly returns to himself; he attempts to 
recollect and actualize the whole of his past experience. But 
the historical self is not a mere individual self. It is anthropo- 
morphic but it is not egocentric. Stated in the form of a 
paradox, we may say that history strives after an "objective 
anthropomorphism.” By malting 11s cognizant of the poly- 
morphism of human existence it frees us from the freaks and 
prejudices of a special and single moment. It is this enrich- 
ment and enlargement, not the effacement, of the self, of Our 
knowing and feeling ego, which is the aim of historical knowl- 

This ideal of historical truth has developed very slowly* 
Even the Greek mind in all its richness and depth could not 
bring it to its full maturity. But in the progress of modem 
consciousness the discover ;md fonnnlation of this concept 
of history has become 011c of our most important tasks. In the 
seventeenth century historical knowledge is still eclipsed by 
another ideal of truth. History has not yet found its place in, 
the sun, It is overshadowed by mathematics and mathematical 
physics, But then, with the beginning of the eighteenth cen- 
tury, there comes a new orientation of modem thought. The 
eighteenth century hud often been looked upon as an unhis- 
torical or antihistorical century. But this is a onc-sided and 
erroneous view. Eighteenth-century thinkers arc the very 
pioneers of historical thought. They pose new questions and*’ 
devise new methods of answering these questions. Historical 
investigation was one of the necessary instruments of the 
philosophy of tire Enlightenment . 85 But in the eighteenth 
century a pragmatic conception of history still prevails. No 
new critical concept appeared prior to the beginning of the' 
nineteenth century, prior to the advent of Niebuhr and Ranke. 
From this time on, however, the modern concept of history 
is firmly established and it extends its influence over all the 
fields of human knowledge and human culture, 

53. Fra further details see Cassirer, Die Philosophie dei Aufklanrng 
(Tubingen, 1933), chap, v, pp. 263-312, 



It was, however, not easy to determine the specific charac- 
ter of historical truth and historical method, A great mafly 
philosophers were prone rather to deny than to explain this 
specific character. So long as the historian continues to main- 
tain special personal views, so long as he blames or praises* 
approves or disapproves, they have said, he will never live r'P 
to his proper task. He will, consciously or unconsciously, dis- 
tort the objective truth. The historian must lose his interest in 
things and events in order to see them in their true shape- 
This methodological postulate received its clearest and most 
impressive expression in Taine’s historical works. The histo- 
rian, declared Taine, has to act like a naturalist. He mu s t 
free himself not only from all conventional prejudices bht 
jfOm all personal predilections and all moral standards. 'Tl le 
modern method which I fallow,” said Taine in the introduc- 
tion to his Philosophy of Art , “and which now begins f° 
penetrate into all the moral sciences consists in regarding th e 
human works ... as facts and products the properties of 
which have to be exhibited and the causes of which have to be 
investigated. When considered in this way science has neither 
to justify nor condemn. The moral sciences must proceed In 
the same way as botany which with equal interest studi cs 
the orange tree and the iaurel, the pine and the beech. They 
arc nothing else than a kind of applied botany which does 
not deal with plants but with the works of men. This is tl> e 
general movement by which at present the moral sciences and 
the natural sciences are approximating one another, and by 
virtue of which the former will achieve the same certainty 
and the same progress as the latter." 88 If we accept this view 
the problem of the objectivity of history appears to be solved 
in the simplest way. Like the physicist or chemist the historian 
must study the causes of things instead of judging their worth- 
“No matter if the facts be physical or moral," says TainA 
“they all have their causes; there is a cause for ambition, fd 1 
courage, for truth, as there is for digestion, for muscular 
movement, for animal heat. Vice and virtue are products, like 

33. Taine, Philosophic de Tart (15th ed. Paris, Librairie HachettA 
1917), Pt. I, chap, i, p. 13. 


vitriol and sugar; and every complex phenomenon has its 
springs from other more simple phenomena on which it hangs- J 
Let us then seek the simple phenomena for moral qualities, 
as we seek them for physical qualities." In both cases we will 
End the same universal and permanent causes, “present at 
every moment and in every case, everywhere and always act- 
ing, indestructible, and in the end infallibly supreme, since, 
the accidents which thwart them, being limited and partial, « 
end by yielding to the dull and incessant repetition of their 
force; in such a manner that the general structure of things, 
and the grand features of events, are their work; and religions, 
philosophies, poetries, industries, the framework of society 
and of families, are in fact only the imprints stamped by their 
seal ." 34 . „ 

I do not intend here to enter into a discussion and criticism 
of this system of historical determinism . 85 A denial of his- 
torical causality would be precisely the wrong way to combat 
this determinism. For causality is a general category that ex- 
tends over the whole field of human knowledge. It is not 
restricted to a particular realm, to the world of material phe-^ 
nomena, Freedom and causality are not to be considered as ' 
different or opposed metaphysical forces; they are simply dif- 
ferent modes of judgment. Even Kant, the most resolute 
champion of freedom and of ethical idealism, never denied 
that all our empirical knowledge, the knowledge of men as 
well as that of physical things, has to recognize the principle 
of causality. It may be admitted, says Kant, “that if it werfr- 
possible to have so profound an insight into a man’s mental 
character as shown by internal as well as external actions, as 
to know all its motives, even the smallest, and likewise all the 
external occasions that can influence them, wc could calculate 
a man’s conduct for the future with as great certainty as a>. 
lunar or solar eclipse; and nevertheless we may maintain that 

3-|. Taine, Hisioice de h literature anglaise. Intro. English trans., 

I, 6 f, 

3;. I have dealt with this question in a paper entitled "Naturalist- 
ische und humanistische Bcgriindung der Kulturphilosophie," Gbte- 
borgs Kungl. Vetenskaps-och Vitterbets-Samhallets Handlingar 
(Gothenburg, 1939). 1 


the man is free.”' 18 We are not here concerned with this 
, aspect of the problem, with the metaphysical or ethical 
concept of freedom. We are interested only in the repercus- 
sion of this concept upon historical method. When studying 
Taine’s principal works we are surprised to find that, prac- 
tically speaking, this repercussion was very small. There would 
seem at first sight to be no greater and more radical difference 
than that between Taine's and Dilthey’s respective concep- 
tions of the historical world. The two thinkers approach the 
problem from two entirely different angles. Diltliey empha- 
sizes the autonomy of history, its ineducibility to natural 
science, its character as a Geisteswissenschaft. Taine emphat- 
ically denies this view. History will never become a science so 
,long as it pretends to go its own way. There is only one mode 
and one path of scientific thought. But this view is immed- 
iately corrected when Taine begins with his own investigation 
and description of historical phenomena. “What is your first 
remark,” he asks, “on turning over the great, stiff leaves of a 
folio, the yellow sheets of a manuscript-a poem, a code of 
laws, a declaration of faith? This, you say, was not created 
alone. It is but a mould, like a fossil shell, an imprint, like 
one of these shapes embossed in stone by an animal which 
lived and perished. Under the shell there was an animal, and 
behind the document there was a man. Why do you study the 
shell, except to represent to yourself the animal? So do you 
study the document only in order to know the man. The 
‘shell and the animal arc lifeless wrecks, valuable only as a clue 
to the entire and living existence. We must reach back to this 
existence, endeavour to re-create it. It is a mistake to study the 
document, as if it were isolated. This were to treat things like 
a simple pedant, to fall into the error of the bibliomaniac. 
Behind all, we have neither mythology nor languages, but 
only men, who arrange words and imagery . . . nothing exists 
except through some individual man; it is this individual with 
whom wc must become acquainted. When we have established 
the parentage of dogmas, or the classification of poems, or the 

36. Kant, Critique of Practical Reason, tans, by T. K. Abbott (6th 
ed. 1927), p. 193. 


progress of constitutions, or the modification of idioms, we 
have only cleared the soil, genuine history is brought into 
existence only when the historian begins to umavei, acioss 
the lapse of time, the living man, toiling, impassioned, en- 
trenched in his customs, with his voice and features, his ges- 
tures and his dress, distinct and complete as he fiom whom 
we have just parted in the street. Let us endeavour, then, to 
annihilate as far as possible this great interval of time, which 
prevents us from seeing man with our eyes, with the eyes of 
our head. ... A language, a legislation, a catechism is never 
more than an abstract thing: the complete thing is the man 
who acts, the man corporeal and visible, who eats, walks, 
fights, labours. ... Let us make the past present: in order 
to judge of a thing, it must be before us; there is no experience 
in respect of what is absent. Doubtless this reconstruction is 
always incomplete; it can produce only incomplete judgments; 
but to that we must lesign ourselves. It is better to have an 
imperfect knowledge than a futile or false one; and there is no 
other means of acquainting ourselves approximately with 
the events of other days, than to see approximately the men of 
other days.” 3T 

All this is in perfect agreement with the view of history and 
historical method which we have tried to expound and defend 
in the foregoing. But if this view is correct it is impossible to 
“reduce" historical thought to the method of scientific 
thought. If we were to know all the laws of nature, if we 
could apply to man all our statistical, economic, sociological, 
rules, still this would not help us to “see" man in this special 
aspect and in his individual form. Here we are not moving in a 
physical but in a symbolic universe. And for understanding 
and interpreting symbols wc have to develop other methods 
than those of research into causes. The category of meaning 
is not to be reduced to the category' of being . 38 If we seek a 
general heading under which we are to subsume historical 
knowledge we may describe it not as a branch of physics but 
as a branch of semantics. The rules of semantics, not the laws 

37. Taine, op. cit., pp. 1 ff. 

38. See above, p, 148. 


J 47 

of nature, arc the general principles of historical thought. His- 
,tory is included in the field of hermeneutics, not in that of 
natural science. So much is admitted by Taine in practice but 
denied in theory. His theory recognizes but two tasks of the 
historian: he must collect the “facts” and he must investigate 
their causes. But what Taine completely overlooks is that 
these facts themselves arc not immediately given to the histo- 
rian. They are not observable like physical or chemical facts; 
they must be reconstructed. And for this reconstruction the 
historian must master a special and very complicated tech- 
nique; he must learn to read his documents and to under- 
stand the monuments in order to have access to a single and 
simple fact. In history the interpretation of symbols precedes 
,the collection of facts, and without this interpretation there 
is no approach to historical troth. 

This brings us to another much-controverted problem. It is 
obvious that history cannot describe all the facts of the past. It 
deals only with the “memorable” facts, with the facts "worth' 
remembering. But where lies the difference between these 
memorable facts and all the rest which fall into oblivion? 
Rickert tried to prove that the historian, in order to dis- 
tinguish between historical and nonhistorical facts, must be 
in possession of a certain system of formal values and that he 
must use this system as his standard in the selection of facts. 
But this theory is liable to grave objections . 80 It would seem 
much more natural and plausible to say that the true criterion 
rdoes not consist in the valnc of facts but in their practical 
consequences. A fact becomes historically relevant if it is preg- 
nant with consequences. Many eminent historians have sup- 
ported this theory. “If we ask ourselves," says Eduard Meyer, 
“which of the events we know of are historical, we have to 
, reply: historical is whatever is effective or has become effec- 
tive. What is effective we Erst experience in the present in 
which we immediately perceive the effect, but we can also 
experience it with respect to the past. In both cases we have 

39. For a criticism of this theory sec Ernst Troeltsch, Dcr Historis- 
raus und seine ProhJeme, in “Gesammelte Schriften,” Vol. Ill, and 
Cassirer, Zur Logik tier Kulturwissenschaften (Gothenburg, 194a), 
' PP- 4 ' ff - 

before our eyes a mass of states of being, that is to say, of 
effects. The historical question is: whereby have these effects 
been produced? What we recognize as the cause of such an' 
effect is a historical event.” 40 But even this mark of distinc- 
tion is not sufficient. If we study a historical work, especially 
a biographical work, we may find on almost every page men- 
tion of things and events which from a merely pragmatic point 
of view mean very little. A letter of Goethe’s or a remark ' 
dropped in one of his conversations has left no trace in the 
history of literature. Nevertheless we may think it notable 
and memorable. Without any practical effect this letter or 
this utterance may still be reckoned among those documents 
out of which we try to construct our historical portrait of 
Goethe. All this is not important in its consequences but it 
may be highly characteristic. All historical facts are character-' 
istic facts, for in history-in the history of nations as well as 
in that of individuals-wc never look upon deeds or actions 
alone. In these deeds wc see the expression of character. In 
our historical knowlcdge-which is a semantic knowledge~we 
do not apply the same standards as in our practical or physical 
knowledge. A thing that physically or practically is of no im- ‘ 
portance at all may still have very great semantic meaning. 
The letter iota in the Greek terms homo-ousios and homoi- 
ousios meant nothing in a physical sense; but, as a religious 
symbol, as an expression and interpretation of the dogma of 
the Trinity, it became the starling point of interminable dis- 
cussions which stirred up tire most violent emotions and shook^s 
the foundations of religions, social, and political life. Taine 
liked to base his historical descriptions upon what he called 
“ de tout petits foits significatifs These facts were not signifi- 
cant with respect to their effects, but they were “expressive”; 
they were symbols by which the historian could read and in- ■ 
terpret individual characters or the characters of a whole 
epoch. Macaulay tells us that, when he wrote his great histori- 
cal work, he formed his conception of the temper of political 
and religious parties not from any single work but from 

40, Eduard Meyer, Zui Theorie und Methodii der Geschichte (Halle 
a. S., 190a), pp. 36 t. 



thousands of forgotten tracts, sermons, and satires, All these 
things had no great historical weight and may have had very 
little influence upon the general course of events. They are, 
nevertheless, valuable, indeed indispensable, to the historian 
because they help him understand characters and events. 

In the second half of the nineteenth century there were 
many historians who set extravagant hopes upon the introduc- 
tion of statistical methods. They prophesied that by the right 
use of this new and powerful weapon a new era of historical 
thought was going to be brought about. Were it possible to 
describe historical phenomena in terms of statistics, this would 
seem indeed to have a revolutionary effect upon human 
thought. In this case our whole knowledge of man would sud- 
denly take on a new appearance. We should have attained 
a great objective, a mathematics of human nature. The first 
historical writers to expound this view were convinced that 
not only the study of great collective movements but also 
the study of morality and civilization were to a large degree 
dependent on statistical methods. For there is a moral statis- 
tics as well as a sociological or economic statistics. In fact no 
province of human life is exempt from strict numerical rules, 
which extend over every field of human action. 

This thesis was vigorously defended by Buckle in the gen- 
eral introduction to his History of Civilization in England 
(1857). Statistics, declared Buckle, is the best and most con- 
clusive refutation of the idol of a “free will.” We now have 
the most extensive information, not only respecting the ma- 
terial interests of men but also respecting their moral 
peculiarities. We are now acquainted with the mortality rate, 
the marriage rate, and also with the crime rate of the most 
civilized peoples. These and similar facts have been collected, 
methodized, and are now ripe for use. That the creation of 
the science of history was retarded, and that history never was 
able to emulate physics or chemistry, is due to the fact that 
statistical methods were neglected. We did not realize tfiat 
here too every event is linked to its antecedent by an in- 
evitable connection, that each antecedent is connected with a 
preceding fact, and that thus the whole world-tie moral 
world just as much as the physical— forms a necessary chain 

2 5 ° 

in which indeed each man may play his part. But he can by no 
means determine what that part shall be. “Rejecting, then, i 
the metaphysical dogma of free will, . . . wc are driven to ' 
the conclusion that the actions of men, being determined 
solely by their antecedents, must have a character of uniform- 
ity, that is to say, must, under precisely the same circum- 
stances, always issue in precisely the same results .” 41 

That statistics are indeed a great and valuable aid to the 
study of sociological or economic phenomena is of course un- 
deniable. Even in die field of history the uniformity and 
regularity of certain human actions must be admitted. History 
does not deny that these actions, being the result of large and 
general causes at wort upon the aggregate of society, produce 
certain consequences without regard to the volition of the in-^ 
dividuals of whom society is composed. But when we come to 
the historical description of an individual act we have to face 
a quite different problem. By their very nature statistical 
methods restrict themselves to collective phenomena. Statisti- 
cal rules ate not designed to determine a single case; they deal 
only with certain “collectives." Buckle is very far from a dear 
insight into the character and purport of statistical methods. 
An adequate logical analysis of these methods came only at a 
later period . 42 He sometimes speaks of statistical laws in a 
rather queer way. He seems to regard them not as formulae 
which describe certain phenomena but as forces which pro- 
duce these phenomena. This is, of course, not science but 
mythology. To him statistical laws are in a sense “causes”* 
which enforce certain actions upon ns, Suicide, he holds, 
seems to he an entirely free act. But if we study moral statis- 
tics we must judge quite otherwise. W e shall find that “suicide 
is merely the product of the general condition of society, and 
that the individual felon only carries into effect what is a 
necessary consequence of preceding circumstances. In a given 
state of society, a certain number of persons must put an end 

41. Buckle, History of Civilization in England (New York, 1858), 
pp. 14 f. 

42. For the modern literature on statistics, see Keynes, A Treatise 
on Probability (London, 1921), and von Mises, Wahrscheinlichkei t, 
Statistic mid Wahrlieit (Vienna, 1928) . 



1 to their own life. . . . And the power of the larger law is so 
(irresistible, that neither the love of life nor the fear of another 
world can avail anything towards even checking its opera- 
tion." 18 1 need scarcely say that this “must" contains a whole 
nest full of metaphysical fallacies. The historian, however, is 
ant concerned with this side of the problem. If he speaks of an 
j individual case— let us say of Cato’s suicide— it is obvious that 
for the historical interpretation of this individual fact he can- 
not expect any help from statistical methods, His primary 
intention is not to fix a physical event in space and time but 
to disclose the “meaning" of Cato's death. The meaning of 
Cato’s death is expressed in Lucan’s verse, “Vic trix causa diis 
placuit seel victa Catoni." “ Cato’s suicide was not only a 
^physical act, it was a symbolic act. It was the expression of a 
great character; it was the last protest of the Roman re- 
publican mind against a new order of things. All this is com- 
pletely inaccessible to those 'Targe and general causes” which 
we may think of as responsible for the great collective move- 
ments in history. We may try to reduce human actions to 
,, statistical rules. But by these rules we shall never attain the 
end which is acknowledged even by the historians of the nat- 
uralistic school. Wc shall not “see” the men of other days, 
What wc shall sec in this ease will not be the real life, the 
drama of history; it will only be the motions and gestures of 
puppets in a puppet show and the strings by which these 
w marionettes are worked. 

The same objection holds against all attempts to reduce 
historical knowledge to the study of psychological types. At 
first sight it would seem evident that, if we can speak of gen- 
eral laws in history, these laws cannot be the laws of nature 
t but only the laws of psychology. The regularity which we seek 
and wish to describe in history does not belong to our outer 
but to our inner experience. It is a regularity of psychic states, 
of thoughts and feelings. If we were to succeed in finding a 
general inviolable law which governed these thoughts and fcel- 

43. Buckle, op. at., p. 20. 

. 44. “The conquering cause pleased the gods, but the conquered one 
pleased Cato.” 


tags and prescribed for them a definite order, then we might 
think we had found the cine to the historical world. 

Among modern historians it was Karl Lamprecht who be- 
came convinced that he had discovered such a law. In the 
twelve volumes of his German History lie tried to prove his 
general thesis by a concrete example. According to Lamprecht 
there is an invariable order in which the states of the human 
mind follow one another. And this order once for all deter- 
mines the process of human culture. Lamprecht rejected the 
views of economic materialism. Every economic act, like every 
mental act, he declared, depends on psychological conditions. 
But what we need is not an individual but a social psychology, 
a psychology that explains the changes in the social mind. 
These changes are bound to a fixed and rigid scheme. Hence., 
history must cease being a study of individuals; it mrist free 
itself from all sorts of hero worship. Its main problem has to 
do with social-psychic, as compared and contrasted with in- 
dividual-psychic factors. Neither individual nor national 
differences can affect or alter the tegular course of our social- 
psychic life. The history of civilization shows us, always and 
everywhere, the same sequence and the same uniform rhythm. ’ 
From a first stage, which is described by Lamprecht as 
animism, we pass to an age of symbolism, typism, conven- 
tionalism, individualism, and subjectivism. This scheme is 
unchangeable and inexorable. If we accept this principle his- 
tory is no longer a mere inductive science. We ate in a position 
to make general deductive statements. Lamprecht abstracted* 
his scheme from the facts of German history. But he by no 
means intended to restrict it to this one area. He thought 
his scheme was a generally applicable, a priori principle of all 
historical life. “We obtain from the total material," he wrote, 
“not only the idea of unity, historical and empirical, but also • 
a general psychologic impression which absolutely declares 
and demands such a unity; all the simultaneous psychic in- 
cidents, the individual-psychic, as well as the socio-psychic, 
have a tendency to approach common similarity." 18 The 

45. What Is History? trans. by E. A. Andrews (New York, Mac- 
millan, 1905), p. loy. 


J 53 

universal psychic mechanism of the course of the various 
periods recurs everywhere, in modem Russia as well as in the 
history of Greece or Rome, in Asia as well as in Europe. If we 
peruse all the monuments of northern, middle, and southern 
Europe, along with those of the eastern Mediterranean and 
Asia Minor, it will appear that all these civilizations have 
j advanced along parallel lines. “When this has been accom- 
plished, we may estimate the importance to world-history of 
each individual community or nation. A scientific Welf- 
geschichte can then be written.” 18 

Lamprecht’s general scheme is quite different from Buckle’s 
conception of the historical process. Nevertheless the two theo- 
ries have a point of contact. In both of them we meet with 
/the same ominous term, with the term “must. 1 * After a period 
of typism and conventionalism there must always follow a 
period of individualism and subjectivism. No special age and 
no special culture ean ever evade this general course of things, 
which seems to be a sort of historical fatalism. If this concep- 
tion were true the great drama of history would become a 
, rather dull spectacle which wc could divide, once for all, into 
single acts whose sequence would be invariable. But tire reality 
of history is not a uniform sequence of events but the inner 
life of man. This life can be described and interpreted after 
it has been lived; it cannot be anticipated in an abstract gen- 
eral formula, and It cannot be reduced to a rigid scheme of 
three or five acts, But here I do not intend to discuss the 
"context of Lamprecht’s thesis but only to raise a formal, 
methodological question. How did Lamprecht get the empiri- 
cal evidence upon which to base his constructive theory? Like 
all previous historians he had to begin with a study of docu- 
ments and monuments. He was not interested merely in 
' political events, in social organizations, in economic phenom- 
ena. He wished to embrace the whole range of cultural life. 
Many of his most important arguments are based on a careful 
analysis of religious life, of the works of music and literature. 
One of his greatest interests was the study of the history of 
the fine arts. In his history of Germany he speaks not only of 

, 46. Idem, p. 219. 


Kant and Beethoven but also of Feuerbach, Klinger, Boecklin. 
In his Historical Institute in Leipzig he amassed astoundingly, 
rich materials on all these questions. But it is clear that, in 
order to interpret these materials, he had first to translate 
them into a different language. To use the words of Taine he 
had to find behind the “fossil shell” the animal, behind the 
document the man. "When you consider with your eyes the, 
visible man, what do you look for?” asked Taine. “The man 
invisible. The words which enter your ears, the gestures, the 
motions of his head, the clothes he wears, visible acts and 
deeds of every kind, are expressions merely; somewhat is re- 
vealed beneath them, and that is a soul. An inner man is 
concealed benealh the outer man; the second docs hut reveal 
the first. ... All these externals are but avenues converging 
to a centre; you enter them simply in order to reach that 
centre; and that centre is the genuine man. . . . This under- 
world is a new subject-matter, proper to the historian.” 4T 
Hence it is precisely the study of the “naturalistic” historians, 
of Taine and Lamprecht, which confirms our own view, which 
convinces us that the world of history is a symbolic universe, 
not a physical universe, 

After the publication of the first volumes of Lamprecht’s 
German History the growing crisis in historical thought be- 
came more and more manifest and was felt in all its intensity. 
There arose a long and exasperated controversy about the 
character of historical method. Lamprecht had declared that 
all the traditional views were obsolete. He looked upon hijjs 
own method as the only “scientific” and the only “modem” 
one. 48 His adversaries, on the other hand, were convinced 
that what he had given was a mere caricature of historical 
thought. 40 Both sides expressed themselves in very peremp- 
tory and uncompromising language. Reconciliation appeared 
impossible. The scholarly tenor of the debate was often dis- 
rupted by personal or political prejudices. But if we approach 

47. Taine, op. at, I, 4. 

48. Cf. Lamprecht, Alte und neue Richtungen in der Geschichts- 
w'ssensohaft (1896), 

49. For further details see Beralieim, Lehrbuch der historischen 
Methode (5th ed,, Miinchen, Dunclcer, 1908), pp. 710 it. 



the problem with an entirely unbiased mind and from a 
jnerely logical viewpoint we find, in spite of all the differences 
'of opinion, a certain fundamental unity. As we have indicated, 
even the naturalistic historians did not deny, indeed they 
could not deny, that historical facts do not belong to the same 
type as physical facts. They were cognizant of the fact that 
their documents and monuments were not simply physical 
things but had to be read as symbols. On the other hand it is 
clear that each of the symbols-a building, a work of art, a 
religious rite— has its material side. The human world is not a 
separate entity or a self-dependent reality. Man lives in physi- 
cal surroundings which constantly influence him and set their 
seal upon all the forms of his life. In order to understand his 
j;reations-his "symbolic universe”-we must constantly bear 
’in mind this influence. In his masterpiece Montesquieu at- 
tempted to describe the “spirit of the laws." But he found 
that this spirit is everywhere bound down to its physical con- 
ditions. The soil, the climate, the anthropological character 
of the various nations were declared to be among tire funda- 
mental conditions of their laws and institutions. It is obvious 
that these physical conditions must be studied by physical 
methods. Both historical space and historical time are im- 
bedded in a larger whole. Historical time is hut a small 
fragment of a universal cosmic time. If we wish to measure 
this time, if we are interested in the chronology of events, we 
must have physical instruments. In the concrete work of 
“die historian we find no opposition between these two views. 
They are perfectly fused into one. It is only in our logical 
analysis that we can separate one fact from the other. In the 
investigation of a complicated chronological problem the his- 
torian can proceed in different ways. He may use material or 
formal criteria; he may try statistical methods or ideal meth- 
ods of interpretation. The very intricate question of the 
chronology of the Platonic dialogues could, to a great extent, 
be solved by statistical observations concerning the style 
of Plato. By various independent stylistic criteria it could be 
ascertained that a certain group of the dialogues— the Sophist, 
-the Statesman , Phikbus, and Timaeus - belongs to the period 


of Plato’s old age.'" And when Adickes prepared his edition 
of Kant's manuscripts he could find no better criterion for 
bringing them into a definite chronological order than a chem- 
ical analysis of the ink with which the various notes had been 
written. If, instead of using these physical criteria, we start 
from an analysis of Plato’s or Kant’s thoughts and their logical 
connection we need concepts which obviously belong to an- , 
other domain. If, for example, 1 find a drawing or etching I 
may immediately recognize it as a work of Rembrandt; I may 
even be able to say to which period of Rembrandt’s life it 
belongs. The stylistic criteria by which I decide this question 
are of quite another order than the material criteria. 111 This 
dualism of methods does not impair the work of the historian, 
nor does it destroy the unity of historical thought. Both metlx-. 
ods cooperate for a common end without disturbing or ob- 
structing one another. 

The question as to which ot these methods has logical 
primacy over the other and which is the truly “scientific” 
method scarcely admits of a definite answer. If we accept 
Kant's definition that, in the proper sense of the word, we; 
can apply the term “science” only to a body ot knowledge the 
certainty of which is apodictic, 62 then it is clear that wo 
cannot speak of a science of history. But the name we give to 
history does not matter provided that we have a dear insight 
into its general character. Without being an exact science his- 
tory will always maintain its place and its inherent nature in 
the organism of human knowledge. What we seek in history ir 
not the knowledge of an external thing but a knowledge of 
ourselves. A great historian like Jakob Burckhardt in his work 
on Constantine the Great or on the civilization of the Renais- 
sance did not presume to have given a scientific description 

50. For further details see W. Lutoslawski, The Origin and Growth 
of Plato’s Logic, with an Account of Plato's Style and of file 
Chronology of His Writings (London and New York, 1907). 

51. I have discussed the logical character of these “stylistic con- 
cepts” in Zur Logii der Koltunvissenschaften (Gothenburg, 194a), 
pp. 63 ff. 

52. Kant, Metaphysische Anfangsgrunde der Naturwfssenschaft* 

Vorrede, “Werke” (ed, Cassirer), IV, 370. ■, 


of these epochs. Nor did he hesitate to propound the paradox 
.that history is the most unscientific of all the sciences, 68 
* “What I construct historically," mote Burckhardt in a letter, 
“is not the result of criticism or speculation but of imagina- 
tion seeking to fill the gaps in observations. To me history is 
still in a large measure poetry, it is a series of the most beauti- 
,*ful and picturesque compositions." 64 The same view was 
upheld by Mommsen. Mommsen was not only a scientific 
genius; he was at the same time one of the greatest organizers 
of scientific labor. He created tbe Corpus inscriptionum; he 
organized the study of numismatics, and published his His- 
tory of the Coinage. This was hardly the work of an artist. 
But when Mommsen was admitted to the office of rector of 
4he University of Berlin and gave his inaugural address he 
defined his ideal of the historical method by saying that the 
historian belongs perhaps rather to the artists than to the 
scholars. Although he was himself one of the most eminent 
teachers of history he did not scruple, nevertheless, to assert 
that history is not a thing which can be immediately acquired 
? i'by teaching and learning. “The treadle which guides a thou- 
1 sand threads, and the insight into the individuality of men 
and nations, are gifts of genius which defy all teaching and 
learning. If a professor of history thinks he is able to educate 
historians in the same sense as classical scholars and mathe- 
maticians can be educated, he is under a dangerous and detri- 
mental delusion. The historian is not made, he is born; he 
cannot be educated, he has to educate himself.” 66 
But even though we cannot deny that every great historical 
work contains and implies an artistic element, it does not 
thereby become a work of fiction. In his quest for truth the 
cVhistorian is bound by the same strict rules as the scientist. He 
t his to utilize all the methods of empirical investigation. He 

m. Jakob Borckhardt, Weltgeschichtliche Betrachtungen, p. 8k • 
English bans,. Force and Freedom, p. 167. 

54, Baseler Jahrbiicher (1910) , pp. 109 f.; quoted after ICarl JoSl, 
Jakob Burckiiardt als Geschiditsphilosoph (Basle, 1918). 
cs, Th, Mommsen, "Rektoratsrede" (1874), in Keden und AutsStze 
j, (Berlin, 1912). 


has to collect all the available evidence and to compare and 
criticize all bis sources. He is not permitted to forget or neglect 
any important fact. Nevertheless, the last and decisive act is 
always an act of the productive imagination. In a conversation 
with Eckermann Goethe complained that there were few men 
who have “imagination for the truth of reality” [ u eim 
Phantasie fur die Wahrheit des Realm"). “Most prefer 
strange countries and circumstances," he said, “of which they 
know nothing, and by which their imagination may be cul- 
tivated, oddly enough. Then there arc others who ding alto- 
gether to reality, and, as they wholly want the poetic spirit, 
are too severe in their requisitions.” M The great historians 
avoid both extremes. They are empiricists; they are careful 
observers and investigators of special facts; but they do nOi 
lack the "poetic spirit." It is the keen sense for the empirical 
reality of things combined with the free gift of imagination 
upon which the true historical synthesis or synopsis depends. 

The equipoise of these opposing forces cannot be described 
in a general formula. The proportion appears to vary from 
one age to another and from one individual writer to another, 
In ancient history we find a different conception of the task 
of the historian from that of modern history, The speeches 
which Thucydides inserted in his historical work have no em- 
pirical basis. They were not spoken as Thucydides gives them 
Yet they are neither pure fiction nor mere rhetorical adorn- 
ment. They are history, not because they reproduce actugj 
events but because, in the work of Thucydides, they fulfil an 
important historical function. They constitute in a vers 
pregnant and concentrated form a characterization of men 
and events. Pericles' great funeral oration is perhaps the besl 
and most impressive description of Athenian life and Athe 
nian culture in the fifth century. The style of all these speeches 
bears the personal and genuine mark of Thucydides. “The} 
are all distinctly Thucydidean in style," it has been said, “fusl 
as the various characters in a play of Euripides all use similar 

56. Goethe to Eckermann, December 15, 1825, in Conversations a: 
Goethe with Eckermann and Sorei, turns, by John Oxenfoid (Lon 
don, 1874), p. 162. 



diction .” 61 Nevertheless they do not convey merely personal 
i idiosyncrasies; they are representative of the epoch as a whole. 

' In this sense they are objective, not subjective; they possess 
an ideal truth, if not an empirical truth. In modern times we 
have become much more susceptible to the demands of empir- 
ical truth, but we are perhaps frequently in danger of losing 
. sight of the ideal truth of things and personalities. The just 
balance between these two moments depends upon the in- ‘ 
dividual tact of the historian; it cannot be reduced to a 
general rule. In the modem historical consciousness the 
proportion has changed but the elements have remained the 
same. With regard to the distribution and strength of tire two 
forces every historian has his personal equation. 

.» And yet the ideality of history is not the same as the ideality 
of art. Art gives us an ideal description of human life by a 
sort of alchemistic process; it turns our empirical life into 
the dynamic of pure forms . 68 History does not proceed in 
this way. It does not go beyond the empirical reality of things 
and events but molds this reality into a now shape, giving it 
, the ideality of recollection, Life in the light of history remains 
a great realistic drama, with all its tensions and conflicts, its 
greatness and misery, its hopes and illusions, its display of 
energies and passions. This drama, however, is not only felt; 
it is intuited. Seeing this spectacle in the mirror of history 
while we are still living in our empirical world uf emotions 
,.and passions, we become aware of an inner sense of clarity 
J and calmness-of the lucidity and serenity of pure contempla- 
tion. “The mind,” wrote Jakob Burckhardt into his Reflec- 
tions on World History, “must transmute into a possession 
the remembrance of its passage through the ages of the world. 
What was once joy and sorrow must now become knowledge. 

. . . Our study, however, is not only a right and a duty; it is 
also a supreme need. It is our freedom in the very awareness 
of universal bondage and the stream of necessities.”™ 

57. See J. R. Bury, The Ancient Greek Historians, Harvard Lectures 
(New York, Macmillan, 1909), Lecture IV. 

58. See above, pp. 192 ff. 

' 59. Burckhardt, op. at., pp. 8 f. English trarrs., pp. 86 f. 


Written and read in the right way history elevates us to this 
atmosphere of freedom amidst all the necessities of our physi- 
cal, political, social, and economic life. 

It was not my design in this chapter to deal with the 
problems of a philosophy of history. A philosophy of history, 
in the traditional sense of the term, is a speculative and con- 
structive theory of the historical process itself. An analysis Df 
human culture need not enter upon this speculative question. 
It sets up for itself a more simple and modest task, It seeks to 
determine the place of historical knowledge in the organism 
of human civilization. We cannot doubt that without history 
we should miss an essential link in the evolution of this or- 
ganism. Art and history are the most powerful instruments 
of our inquiry into human nature. What would we know of 
man without these two sources of information? We should be 
dependent on the data of our persona! life, which can give us 
only a subjective view and which at best are but the scattered 
fragments of the broken mirror of humanity. To be sure, if 
we wished to complete the picture suggested by these intro- 
spective data we could appeal to more objective methods. We 
could make psychological experiments or collect statistical 
facts. But in spite of this our picture of man would remain 
inert and colorless. Wc should only find the "average” man- 
the man of our daily practical and social intercourse. In the 
great works of history and art we begin to see, behind this 
mask of tire conventional man, the features of the real, 
individual man. In order to find him we must go to the great 
historians or to the great poets-to tragic writers like Eu- 
ripides or Shakespeare, to comic writers like Cervantes, Mo- 
Mre, or Laurence Sterne, or to our modem novelists like 
Dickens or Thackeray, Balzac or Flaubert, Gogol or Dostoiev- 
sky Poetry is not a mere imitation of nature; history is not a 
narration of dead facts and events. History as well as poetry 
is an organon of our self-knowledge, an indispensable instru- 
ment for building up our human universe. 

11 Science 1 

Science is the last step in man’s mental development and 
it may be regarded as the highest and most characteristic 
attainment of human culture. It is a very late and refined 
product that could not develop except under special condi- ' 
tions. Even the conception of science, in its specific sense, did 
not exist before the times of the great Greek thinkers— before 
the Pythagoreans and the Atomists, Plato and Aristotle. And 
this first conception seemed to be forgotten and eclipsed in 
the following centuries. It had to be rediscovered and re- 
established in the age of the Renaissance. After this rediscovery 
the triumph of science seemed to be complete and uncon- 
tested. There is no second power in our modem world which 
may he compared to that of scientific thought. It is held to be 
the summit and consummation of all our human activities, 
the last chapter in the history of mankind and the most im- 
portant subject of a philosophy of man. 

We may dispute concerning the results of science or its first 
principles, but its general function seems to be unquestion- 
able. It is science that gives us the assurance of a constant 
world. To science we may apply the words spoken by Archi- 
medes; dos moi pou std Hi kosmon kMsd (“Give me a place 
to stand and I will move the universe”). In a changing uni- 
verse scientific thought fixes the points of rest, the unmovable 
poles. In Greek language even tire term episteme is etymolog- 
ically derived from a root that means firmness and stability. 
The scientific process leads to a stable equilibrium, to a 

t. This chapter does not of course daim to give an outline of a 
philosophy of sdence or of a phenomenology of knowledge. I have 
discussed the latter problem in the third volume of Philosophic der 
symbolischen Formen (1929); the former in Substance and Function 
and Einstein’s Theory of Relativity (1910; English bans, by W, C. 
and M. C. Swabey, Chicago and London, 1923) and in Deter- 
minismus und Indcterminismus in der modemen Physit (Goteborgs 
Hogskolas Arsskrift, 1936: 1)- Here I have only tried to indicate 
briefly the general function of science and to determine its place in 
the system of symbolic forms. 


stabilization and consolidation of the world of our perceptions 
and thoughts. 

On the other hand science is not alone in having to perform 
this task. In our modem epistemology, both in the empiristic 
and rationalistic schools, we often meet with the conception 
that the first data of human experience are in an entirely 
chaotic state. Even Kant seems, in the first chapters of the 
<■ Critique of Pure Reason, to start from this presupposition, 
Experience, he says, is no doubt the first product of our under- 
standing, But it is not a simple fact; it is a compound of two 
opposite factors, of matter and form. The material factor is 
given in out sense perceptions; the formal factor is represented 
by our scientific concepts. These concepts, the concepts of 
pure understanding, give to the phenomena their synthetic . 
unity. What we call the unity of an object cannot be anything 
but the formal unity of our consciousness in the synthesis of 
the manifold in our representations. Then and then only we 
say that we know an object if we have produced synthetic 
unity in the manifold of intuition.® For Kant, therefore, the 
whole question of the objectivity of human knowledge is in- 
dissolubly connected with the fact of science. His Transcen- 
dental Aesthetics is concerned with the problem of pure 
mathematics; his Transcendental Analytic attempts to ex- 
plain the fact of a mathematical science of nature. 

But a philosophy of human culture has to track down the 
problem to a more remote source. Man lived in an objective 
world long before he lived in a scientific world. Even before 1 
he had found his approach to science his experience was not 
a mere amorphous mass of sense expressions. It was an or- 
ganized and articulated experience. It possessed a definite 
structure. But the concepts that give to this world its synthetic 
unity are not of the same type nor are they on the same level 
as our scientific concepts. They are mythical or linguistic con- 
cepts. If we analyze these concepts we find that they are by 
no means simple or “primitive.” The first classifications of 
the phenomena which we find in language or myth arc in a 
sense much more complicated and sophisticated than our 

z. Kant, Critique of Pure Reason (rst German ed.), p. 105. 


scientific classifications. Science begins with a quest for sim- 
plicity. Simplex sigillum mi seems to be one of its funda- 
mental devices. This logical simplicity is, however, a terminus 
ad quem., not a terminus a quo. It is an end, not a beginning. 
Human culture begins with a much more complex and in- 
volved state of mind. Nearly all our sciences of nature had to 
pass through a mythical stage. In the history of scientific 
thought alchemy precedes chemistry, astrology precedes as-- 
tronomy. Science could advance beyond these first steps only 
by introducing a new measure, a different logical standard of 
truth. Truth, it declares, is not to be attained so long as man 
confines himself within the narrow circle of his immediate 
experience, of observable facts. Instead of describing detached 
and isolated facts science strives to give us a comprehensive 
" view. But this view cannot be attained by a mere extension, 
an enlargement and enrichment of out ordinary experience. 
It demands a new principle of order, a new fonn of intellectual 
interpretation. Language is the first attempt of man to articu- 
late the world of his sense perceptions. This tendency is one 
of the fundamental features of human speech. Some linguists 
' have even thought it necessary to assume a special classifying 
instinct in man in order to account for the fact and the 
structure of human speech. “Man,” says Otto Jespersen, "is 
a classifying animal; in one sense it may be said that the 
whole process of speaking is nothing but distributing phenom- 
ena, of which no two are alike in every respect, into different 
'.classes on the strength of perceived similarities and dissimi- 
larities. In the name-giving process we witness the same 
ineradicable and very useful tendency to see likenesses and to 
express similarity in the phenomena through similarity in 
name .” 3 

1 But what science seeks in phenomena is much more than 
similarity; it is order. The first classifications that we find in 
human speech have no strictly theoretical aim. The names of 
the objects fulfil their task if they enable us to communicate 
our thoughts and to coordinate our practical activities. They 
have a teleological function, which slowly develops into a more 

- 3. Jespersen, Language, pp. 388 f. 


objective, a “representative” function.* Every apparent simi- 
larity between different phenomena is enough to designate 
them by a common name. In some languages a butterfly is 
described as a bird or a whale is described as a fish. When 
science began its first classifications it had to correct and to 
overcome these superficial similarities. Scientific terms are not 
made at random; they follow a definite principle of classifi- 
cation. The creation of a coherent systematic terminology is 
by no means a mere accessory feature of science; it is one of its 
inherent and indispensable elements. When Linnaeus created 
his Philosophic botaiica he had to confront the objection that 
what was given here was only an artificial, not a natural 
system. But all systems of classification are artificial. Nature 
as such only contains individual and diversified phenomena, 
If we subsume these phenomena under class concepts and 
general laws we do not describe facts of nature. Every system 
is a work of art-a result of conscious creative activity. Even 
the later so-called “natural’’ biological systems that were op- 
posed to the system of Linnaeus had to use new conceptual 
elements. They were based on a general theory of evolution. 
But evolution itself is not a mere fact of natural history; it 
is a scientific hypothesis, a regulative maxim for our observa- 
tion and classification of natural phenomena, Darwin’s theory 
opened a new and wider horizon, it gave a more complete and 
more coherent survey of the phenomena of organic life. This 
was by no means a refutation of Linnaeus' system which was 
always regarded by its author as a preliminary step. He was' 
quite aware that in a certain sense he had only created a new 
botanical terminology, but he was convinced that this termi- 
nology had both a verbal and a real value. “Nomina si nescis 
he said, “petit et cognitio rerum.’' 

In this regard there seems to be no break of Continuity be- 
tween language and science. Our linguistic and our first 
scientific names may be looked upon as the result and off- 
spring of the same classifying instinct. What is unconsciously 
done in language is consciously intended and methodically 

4. With regard to this problem see Philosophic der symbolischen 
Formeit, l, 255 if. 


performed in the scientific process. In its first stages science 
still had to accept the names of things in the sense in which 
they were used in ordinary speech, It could use them for de- 
scribing the fundamental elements or qualities of things. In 
the first Greek systems of natural philosophy, in Aristotle, we 
find that these common names still have great influence on 
scientific thought. 8 But in Greek thought this power is no 
longer the only one or the prevalent one. In the times of * 
Pythagoras and the first Pythagoreans Greek philosophy had 
discovered a new language, the language of numbers. This 
discovery marked the natal hour of our modern conception of 

That there is a regularity, a certain uniformity, in natural 
.events-in the movements of the planets, in the rise of the 
sun or the moon, in the change of the seasons-is one of the 
first great experiences of mankind. Even in mythical thought 
this experience had found its full acknowledgment and its 
characteristic expression. Here we meet with the first traces 
of the idea of a general order of nature." And long before 
the times of Pythagoras this order had been described not 
only in mythical terms but also in mathematical symbols. 
Mythical and mathematical language interpenetrate each 
other in a very curious way in the first systems of Babylonian 
astrology which we can trace back to as early a period as 
about 3800 b.c. The distinction between the different star 
groups and the twelvefold division of the zodiac were intro- 
duced by the Babylonian astronomers. All these results would 
not have been attained without a new theoretical basis, But 
a much bolder generalization was necessary to create the first 
philosophy of number. The Pythagorean thinkers were the 
first to conceive number as an all-embracing, a really universal 
element. Its use is no longer confined within the limits of a 
special field of investigation. It extends over the whole realm 
of being. When Pythagoras made his first great discovery, 
when he found the dependence of the pitch of sound on the 

5. Cf. Cassirer, "The Influence of Language upon the Development 
of Scientific Thought," Journal of Philosophy, XXXIX, No. 12 
(June, 1942), 309-327, 

6. Sec Philosophic der symbolischen Formen, II, 141 ft. 


length of the vibrating chords, it was not the fact itself but 
the interpretation of the fact which became decisive for the 
future orientation of philosophical and mathematical thought, 
Pythagoras could not think of this discovery as an isolated 
phenomenon. One of the most profound mysteries, the mys- 
tery of beauty, seemed to be disclosed here. To the Greek 
mind beauty always had an entirely objective meaning. Beauty 
'is truth; it is a fundamental character of reality. If the beauty 
which we feel in the harmony of sounds is reducible to a 
simple numerical ratio it is numbei that reveals to us the 
fundamental structure of the cosmic order. “Number,’' says 
one of the Pythagorean texts, “is the guide and master of 
human thought. Without its power everything would remain 
obscure and confused.” 7 We would not live in a world of 
truth, but in a world of deception and illusion. In number, 
and in number alone, wc find an intelligible universe. 

That this universe is a new universe of discourse-that the 
world of number is a symbolic world-was a conception en- 
tirely alien to the mind of the Pythagorean thinkers. Here 
as in all other cases there could he no sharp distinction be- 
tween symbol and object. The symbol not only explained the 
object; it definitely took the place of the object. Things were 
not only related to or expressible by numbers; they ware num- 
bers. We no longer maintain this Pythagorean thesis of the 
substantial reality of number; we do not regard it as the very 
core of reality. But what we have to acknowledge is that num- 
ber is one of the fundamental functions of human knowledge,’ 
a necessary step in the great process of objectification. This 
process begins in language, but in science it assumes an en- 
tirely new shape. For the symbolism of number is of quite a 
different logical type from the symbolism of speech. In lan- 
guage we find the first efforts of classification, but these are 
still uncoordinated. They cannot lead to a true systematiza- 
tion. For the symbols of language themselves have no definite 
systematic order. Every single linguistic term has a special 
“area of meaning.” It is, as Gardiner says, “a beam of light, 

7. See Philolaos, Fragments 4, 11, in Diels, Die Fragmente der 
Voisokiatiker, I, 408, 411. 


illumining first this portion and then that portion of the field 
within which the thing, or rather the complex concatenation 
of things signified by a sentence lies." * But all these different 
beams of light do not have a common focus. They are dis- 
persed and isolated. In the “synthesis of the manifold” every 
new word makes a new start. 

This state of affairs is completely changed as soon as wc^ 
enter into the realm of number. We cannot speak of single 
or isolated numbers. The essence of number is always relative, 
not absolute. A single number is only a single place in a gen- 
eral systematic order. It has no being of its own, no self- 
contained reality. Its meaning is defined by the position it 
occupies in the whole numerical system. The series of the 
' natural numbers is an infinite series. But this infinity sets no 
limits to our theoretical knowledge. It does not mean any 
indeterminateness, an Apeirort in the Platonic sense; it means 
just the contrary, In the progress of numbers we do not meet 
with an external limitation, with a “last term." But what we 
find here is limitation by virtue of an intrinsic logical princi- 
ple. All the terms are bound together by a common bond. 
They originate in one and the same generative relation, that 
relation which connects a number n with its immediate 
successor (n+x ) . From this very simple relation we can derive 
all the properties of the integer numbers. This distinctive 
mark and the greatest logical privilege of this system is its 
, complete transparency, In onr modem tlicories-in the theo- 
ries of Frege and Russell, of Peano and Dedekind-number 
has lost all its ontological secrets. We conceive it as a new 
and powerful symbolism which, for all scientific purposes, is 
infinitely superior to the symbolism of speech. For what we 
find here are no longer detached words but terms that pro- 
ceed according to one and the same fundamental plan and 
that, therefore, show us a clear and definite structural law. 

Nevertheless, the Pythagorean discovery meant only a first 
step in the development of natural science. The whole Pythag- 
orean theory of number was suddenly called in question by a 
new fact. When the Pythagoreans detected that in a right- 

8. Gardiner, The Theory of Speech and Language, p. 51. 

2 68 

angled triangle the line that subtends the right angle has no 
common measure with the two other sides they had to face 
an entirely new problem. In the whole history of Gieek 
thought, especially in the dialogues of Plato, we fed the deep 
repercussion of this dilemma. It designates a genuine crisis 
in Greek mathematics. No ancient thinker could solve the 
problem in our modern way, by the introduction of the so- 
"fcalled "irrational numbers,’' From the point of view of Greek 
logic and mathematics iirational numbers were a contradiction 
in terms. They were an arMton, a thing not to be thought of 
and not to be spoken of . 11 Since number had been defined as 
an integer or as a ratio between integers, an incommensurable 
length was a length which did not admrt of any numerical 
expression, which defied and set at nought all the logical 
powers of number. What the Pythagoreans had sought and 
what they had found hr number was the perfect harmony of 
all kinds of beings and all forms of knowledge, of perception, 
intuition, and thought. From now on arithmetic, geometry, 
physics, music, astronomy seemed to form a unique and co- 
herent whole. All things in heaven and on earth became "a 
harmony and a number .” 10 Tire discovery of incommensur- 
able lengths, however, was the breakdown of this thesis. 
Henceforth there was no real harmony between arithmetic 
and geometry, between the realm of discrete numbers and 
the realm of continuous quantities. 

It took the efforts of many centuries of mathematical and 
philosophical thought to restore this harmony. A logical theory , 
of the mathematical continuum is one of the latest achieve- 
ments of mathematical thought . 11 And without such a theory 
all the creation of new numbers-of the fractions, the irra- 
tional numbers, and so on-always seemed to be a very 
questionable and precarious enterprise. If the human mind 
by its own power could arbitrarily create a new sphere of 
things we should have to change all our concepts of objective 

q. Cf, Heinrich Scholz and H. Hasse, Die Grundlagen JCrise der 
griechischen MaHiematik (Charlottenburg, 1928). 

10. Cf. Aristotle, Metaphysics, I, ;, 985b. 

n. See Hermann Weyl, Das Kontimrant. Kritische Untersuchungen 

fiber die Grundlagen der Analysis (Leipzig, lgrS) . 


truth. But here too the dilemma loses its force as soon as we 
take into account the symbolic character of number. I11 this 
case it becomes evident that in the introduction of new 
classes of numbers we do not create new objects but new 
symbols. The natural numbers arc in this respect on the same 
level as the fractional or irrational numbers. They too are not 
descriptions or images of concrete things, of physical objects. 
Rather they express very simple relations. The enlargement 
of the natural realm of numbers, its extension over a larger 
field, only means the introduction of new symbols which are 
apt to describe relations of a higher order. The new numbers 
ire symbols not of simple relations but of “relations of re- 
lations," of “relations of relations of relations,” and so on. 
All this is not in contradiction to the character of the integers; 
t elucidates and confirms this character, In order to fill the 
;ap between the integers, which are discrete quantities, and 
he world of physical events contained in the continuum of 
ipace and time mathematical thought was bound to find a 
tew instrument. If number had been a “thing,” a substantia 
fuae in se est et per se concipitur, the problem would have 
)ecn insoluble. Bui since it was a symbolic language, it was 
mly necessary to develop the vocabulary, the morphology, and 
lyntax of this language in a consistent way. What was re- 
luired here was not a change in the nature and essence of 
lumber but only a change of meaning. A philosophy of mathe- 
natics had to prove that such a change does not lead to an 
imbiguity or a coutradiction-tliat quantities not capable of 
jeing exactly expressed by integral numbers or tile ratios be- 
ween integral numbers became entirely understandable and 
expressible by the introduction of new symbols. 

That all geometrical questions admit of such a transforma- 
tion was one of the first great discoveries of modem philos- 
ophy. Descartes’ analytical geometry gave the first convincing 
oroof of this relation between extension and number. Henje- 
: orth the language of geometry ceased being a special idiom. 
It became a part of a much more comprehensive language, of 
1 mathesis universalis. But for Descartes it was not yet possi- 
ble to master the physical world, the world of matter and 
notion, in the same way. His attempts to develop a mathe- 

27 ° 

matical physics failed. The material of our physical world is 
composed of sense data, and the stubborn and refractory facts 
represented by these sense data seemed to resist all the efforts 
of Descartes’ logical and rational thought. His physics re- 
mained a network of arbitrary assumptions. But if Descartes 
as a physicist could err in his means, he did not err in his 
, fundamental philosophical aim. Henceforth this aim was 
clearly understood and firmly established. In all its single 
branches physios tended to one and the same point; it at- 
tempted to bring the whole world of natural phenomena 
under the control of number. 

In this general methodological ideal we find no antagonism 
between classical and modern physics. Quantum mechanics is 
in a sense tire true renaissance, the renovation and confirma- 
tion of the classical Pythagorean ideal. But here too it was 
necessary to introduce a much more abstract symbolic lan- 
guage. When Democritus described the structure of his atoms 
he had recourse to analogies taken from the world of our sense 
experience. He gave a picture, an image of the atom, which 
resembles the common objects of our maciocosm. Tire atoms ' 
were distinguished from each other by their shape, their size, 
and the arrangement of their parts, Their connection was ex- 
plained by material liuks; the single atoms were supplied with 
hooks and eyes, with balls and sockets to rend them attachable. 
All this imagery, tills figurative illustration has vanished in 
our modem theories of the atom. In Bohr’s model of the atom t 
there is none of this picturesque language. Science no longer' 
speaks the language of common sense-experience; it speaks the 
Pythagorean language. The pure symbolism of number super- 
sedes and obliterates the symbolism of common speech. Not 
only the macrocosm but also the microcosm-the world of in- , 
teratomic phenomena-could now be described in this lan- 
guage; and this proved to be the opening for an entirely new 
systematic interpretation. "After the discovery of spectral- 
analysis," wrote Arnold Sommeifeld in the preface to his 
book, Atomic Structure and Spectral Lines , 11 "no One 

12. (German ed, igrg) English traits, by Harry L. Brose (New 
York, Dutton, 1923). 


trained in physics could doubt that the problem of the atom 
1 would be solved when physicists had learned to understand 
the language of spectra. So manifold was the enormous amount 
of material that had been accumulated in sixty years of 
spectroscopic research that it seemed at first beyond the possi- 
bility of disentanglement. . . . What we are nowadays hear- 
ing af the language of spectra is a true 'music of the spheres’ 
within the atom, chords of integral relationships, an Older 
and harmony that becomes ever more perfect in spite of the 
manifold variety. ... All integral laws of spectral lines and 
of atomic theory spring originally from the quantum theory. 
It is the mysterious organon on which Nature plays her music 
of the spectra, and according to the rhythm of which she regu- 
lates the structure of the atom and nuclei.” 

The history of chemistry is one of the best and most striking 
examples of this slow transformation of scientific language. 
Much later than physics chemistry entered "on the highway 
of science .’ 1 It was by no means the lack of new empirical 
evidence that for many centuries obstructed the progress of 
chemical thought and kept chemistry within the bounds of 
prcsoientific concepts. If we study the history of alchemy we 
find that the alchemists possessed an astounding talent for 
observation. They amassed a great hulk of valuable facts, a 
raw material without which chemistry could scarcely have 
been developed . 18 But the form in which this raw material 
was presented was quite inadequate. When the alchemist 
t began to describe his observations he had no instrument at 
his disposal but a half-mythical language, full of obscure and 
ill-deiined terms. He spoke in metaphors and allegories, not 
in scientific concepts. This obscure language left its mark 
upon his whole conception of nature. Nature became a realm 
of obscure qualities understandable only to the initiated, to 
the adepts. A new stream of chemical thought begins in the 
period of the Renaissance. In the schools of "iatrochemistiy” 
biological and medical thought becomes prevalent. But a true 

13. For the history of alchemy sec E, 0 . von Lippmann, Entstehung 
□nd Aushreitung der Alch/mie (Berlin, Springer, 1910), and Lynn 
Thorndike, A History of Magic and Experiments I Science (New 
York, 1923-41), 6 vols. 


scientific approach to the problems of chemistry was not at- 
tained until the seventeenth century. Robert Boyle’s Cliy- 
mista sceplicus (1677 ) is ^ rst Sr e3t example of a modem 
ideal of chemistry based upon a new general conception of 
nature and natural laws. Yet even here and in the following 
development of the theory of phlogiston we find only a 
qualitative description of chemical processes. It was not until 
the end of the eighteenth century, the time of Lavoisier, that 
chemistry learned to speak a quantitative language. From then 
on rapid progress is observable. When Dalton discovered his 
law of equivalent or multiple proportions a new way was 
opened to chemistry. The power of number was firmly estab- 
lished. Nevertheless, there still remained large fields of chem- 
ical experience which were not yet completely subjected to 
the rules of number. The list of the chemical elements was 
a mere empirical list; it did not depend on any fixed principle 
01 show a definite systematic order. But even this last obstacle 
was removed by the discovery of the periodic system of the 
elements. Every dement had found its place in a coherent 
system, and this place was marked by its atomic number. “The 
true atomic number is simply the number which gives the 
position of the element in the natural system when due ac- 
count is taken of chemical relationships in deciding the order 
of each element.” By arguing on the basis of the periodic 
system it was possible to predict unknown elements and to 
discover them subsequently. Thus chemistry had acquired a 
new mathematical and deductive structure. 14 

We can trace the same general trend of thought in the 
history of biology. Like all other natural sciences biology had 
to begin with a mere classification of facts, still guided by the 
class-concepts of our ordinary language. Scientific biology 
gave to these concepts a more definite meaning. Aristotle’s 
zoological system and Theophrastus' botanical system show a 
' high degree of coherence and methodological order. But in 
modern biology all these earlier forms of classification are 
eclipsed by a different ideal. Biology is slowly passing into a 
new stage of "deductively formulated theory." "Any science 

14. For details see, ior instance, Sommeifeld, op. cit,, chap. ii. 



in its normal development, “ says Professor Northrop, “passes 
through two stngcs— the first which we terra the natural 
history stage, the second the postulationaUy prescribed theory. 
To each of these stages there belongs a definite type of 
scientific concept. The type of concept for the natural his- 
tory stage we term a concept by inspection; that for the 
postulationaUy prescribed stage a concept by postulation, A 
concept by inspection is one the complete meaning of whicfi 
is given by something immediately apprehended. A concept 
by postulation is one the meaning of which is prescribed for 
it by the postulates of the deductive theory in which it oc- 
curs." 18 For this decisive step which leads from the merely 
apprehendable to the understandable wc are always in need 
of a new instrument of thought. We must refer our observa- 
tions to a system of well-ordered symbols in order to make 
them coherent and interpretablc in terms of scientific con- 

That mathematics is a universal symbolic languagc-fhat 
it is not concerned with a description of firings but with gen- 
eral expressions of relations-is a conception which appears 
rather late in the history of philosophy. A theory of mathe- 
matics based upon this presupposition does not appear before 
the seventeenth century. Leibniz was the first great modem 
thinker to have a clear insight into the true character of mathe- 
matical symbolism and immediately elicit fruitful and com- 
prehensive consequences. In this regard tire history of 
mathematics does not differ from the history of all the other 
symbolic forms. Even for mathematics it proved to be ex- 
tremely difficult to discover the new dimension of symbolic 
thought. Such thought was employed by mathematicians 
long before they could account for its specific logical character. 
Like the symbols of language and of art, mathematical sym- 
bols are from the beginning surrounded by a sort of magical 
atmosphere. They are looked upon with religious awe and t 
veneration. Later on this religious and mystical faith slowly 
develops into a kind of metaphysical faith. In Plato's philos- 

15. F. S. C. Northrop, “The method and theories of physical science 
in their bearing upon biological organization," Growth Supplement 
(1940), pp. 127-154. 


ophy number is no longer wrapped in mystery. It is, on the 
contrary, regarded as the very ccnta of the intellectual 
world~it has become the clue to all (ruth and intelligibility. 
When Plato in his old age gave his theory of the ideal world 
he tried to describe it in terms of pure number. Mathematics 
is to him the intermediary realm between the sensible and 
the supta-sensible world. He, too, is a true Pythagorean- 
and as a Pythagorean he is convinced that the power of num- 
ber extends over the whole visible world. But the metaphysi- 
cal essence of number cannot be revealed by any visible 
phenomenon. The phenomena partake in this essence but 
they cannot adequately express it— they necessarily fall short 
of it. It is a mistake to consider those visible numbers which 
we find in natural phenomena, in the movements of the 
celestial bodies, as the true mathematical numbers. What we 
see here are only “indications” (paradeigmata) of the pure 
ideal numbers. These numbers are to be apprehended by 
reason and intelligence but not by sight. 

“The spangled heavens should be used as a pattern and 
with a view to that higher knowledge; their beauty is like the 
beauty of figures or pictures excellently wrought by the band 
of Daedalus, or some other great artist, which wc may chance 
to behold; any geometrician who saw' them would appreciate 
the exquisiteness of their workmanship, but lie would never 
dream of thinking that in them he could find the true equal 
or the true double, or the truth of any other proportion. . • . 
And will not a true astronomer have the same feeling when he 
looks at the movements of the stars? Will he not think that 
heaven and the things in heaven are framed by tbe Creator 
of them in the most perfect manner? But he will never imag- 
ine that the proportions of night and day, or of both to the 
month, or of the month to the year, or of the stars to these 
and to one another, and any other things that are material 
and'visible can also be eternal and subject to no deviation- 
that would be absurd; and it is equally absurd to take so 
much pains in investigating their exact truth 19 

Modem epistemology no longer maintains this Platonic 

r6. Plato, Republic, 529, 530 (Jowett trans.). 



I theory of number. It docs not regard mathematics as a study 
■ of tilings, cither visible or invisible, but as a study of relations 
and types of relations. If we speak of the objectivity of num- 
ber, we do not think of it as a separate metaphysical or 
physical entity. What we wish to express is that number is an 
instrument for the discovery of nature and reality. The his- 
1 tory of science gives us typical examples of this continuous in- 
tellectual process. Mathematical thought often seems to go' 
in advance of physical investigation. Our most important 
mathematical theories do not spring from immediate practi- 
cal or technical needs. They are conceived as general schemes 
of thought prior to any concrete application. When Einstein 
developed his general theory of relativity he went back to 
• Riemann’s geometry which had been created long before hut 
which Riemann regarded only as a mere logical possibility, 
hut lie was convinced that we were in need of such possi- 
bilities in order to he prepared for the description of actual 
facts. What we need is full freedom in the construction of 
the various forms of our mathematical symbolism, in order 
to provide physical thought with all its intellectual instru- 
ments. Nature is inexhaustible— it will always pose fot us new 
and unexpected problems. Wc cannot anticipate the facts, 
but we can make provision for the intellectual interpretation 
of the facts through the power of symbolic thought. 

If we accept this view we can find an answer to one of the 
most difficult and most debated problems of modem natural 
•■science-the problem of determinism. What science needs is 
not a metaphysical determinism hut a methodological deter- 
minism. We may repudiate that mechanical determinism 
which has found its expression in the famous formula of 
Laplace . 17 But the true scientific determinism, the deter- 
minism of number, is not liable to these objections. We no 
longer regard number as a mystical power or as the meta- 
physical essence of things. We look upon it as a specific* in- 
strument of knowledge, Obviously this conception is not 
called into question by any result of modern physics. The 

17. For this problem, see Cassirer, Determiiusnius end Inde- 
termmismus in der modemen Pfiysik, 


progress of quantum mechanics has shown us that our mathe- 
matical language is much richer and much more elastic and 
pliable than was realized in the systems of classical physics. 

It is adaptable to new problems and new demands. When 
Heisenberg put forward his theory he used a new form of 
algebraic symbolism, a symbolism for which some of our 
ordinary algebraic rules became invalid. But the general form 
'of number is preserved in all these subsequent schemes. 
Gauss said that mathematics is the queen of science and arith- 
metic the queen of mathematics. In a historical survey of the 
development of mathematical thought during the nineteenth 
century Felix Klein declared that one of the most characteris- 
tic features of this development is the progressive “arithmeti- 
zation” of mathematics. 18 Also in the history of modern 
physics we can follow this process of arithmetization. From 
Hamilton’s quaternions up to the different systems of quan- 
tum mechanics we find more and more complex systems of 
algebraic symbolism. The scientist acts upon the principle 
that even in the most complicated cases he will eventually 
succeed in finding an adequate symbolism which will allow 
him to describe his observations in a universal and generally 
understandable language. 

It is true that the scientist docs not give us a logical or 
empirical proof of this fundamental assumption. The only 
proof that he gives us is his work. He accepts the principle of 
numerical determinism as a guiding maxim, a regulative idea 
that gives his work its logical coherence and its systematic 
unity. I find one of the best statements of this general 
character of the scientific process in Helmholtz’ Treatise on 
Physiological Optics. If the principles of our scientific knowl- 
edge, for instance the law of causation, were nothing but 
empirical rules, says Helmholtz, their inductive proof would 
be in a very bad state. The best we could say would be that 
these principles were not very much more valid than rules of 
meteorology like the law of the rotation of the wind, etc, But 
these principles bear on their face the character of purely logi- 

18. Felix Klein, Vorlesungeu liber die Entwicklung der Mathematik 
im 19, Jahrhundert (Berlin, 1926-27), 



cal laws because the conclusions derived from them concern 
■ not our actual experience and the mere facts of nature but 
our interpretation of nature. 

"The process of our comprehension with respect to natural 
phenomena is that we try to find general notions and laws of 
nature. Laws of nature are merely generic notions for the 
changes in nature. . . , Hence, when we cannot trace natural 
phenomena to a law . . . the very possibility of comprehend* 
ing such phenomena ceases. 

"However, we must try to comprehend them. There is no 
other method of bringing them under the control of the in- 
tellect. And so in investigating them we must proceed on the 
supposition that they are comprehensible. Accordingly, the 
law of sufficient reason is really nothing more than the urge 
of our intellect to bring all our perceptions under its own 
control. It is not a law of nature. Our intellect is the faculty 
of forming general conceptions. It has nothing to do with our 
sense-perceptions and experiences unless it is able to form 
general conceptions or laws. . . . Besides our intellect there 
■is no other equally systematized faculty, at any rate for com- 
prehending the external world. Thus if we are unable to con- 
ceive a tiling, we cannot imagine itas existing.” 10 

These words describe in a very clear way the general atti- 
tude of the scientific mind. The scientist knows that there 
are still very large fields of phenomena which it has not yet 
been found possible to reduce to strict laws and to exact 
^numerical rales. Nevertheless he remains faithful to this 
general Pythagorean creed: he thinks that nature, taken as a 
whole and in all its special fields, is "a number and a har- 
mony.” In face of the immensity' of nature many of the 
greatest scientists may have had that special feeling that was 
expressed in a famous saying of Newton’s. They may have 
thought that in their own work they were like a child who 
walks along the shore of an immense ocean and amuses him- 
self occasionally picking up a pebble whose shape or cblor 
attracts his eyes. This modest feeling is understandable, but 

19, Helmholtz, Treatise on Physiological Optics, tans, by fames P. 
C. Southall (Optical Society of America; George Banta Publishing 
Co., 1925; copyright, G. E. Stccheit), III, 33-35. 


it gives no tine and full description of the work of the 
scientist. The scientist cannot attain his end without strict 
obedience to the facts of nature. But this obedience is not 
passive submission. Tire work of all the great natural scientists 
-of Galileo and Newton, of Maxwell and Helmholtz, of 
Planck and Einstein-was not mere fact collecting; it was 
theoretical, and that means constructive, work. This spon- 
^taneity and productivity is the very center of all human activi- 
ties. It is man’s highest power and it designates at the same 
time the natural boundary of our human world. In language, 
in religion, in art, in science, man can do no more than to 
build up his own universe-a symbolic universe that enables 
him to understand and interpret, to articulate and organize, 
to synthesize and universalize his human experience. 

12 Summary and Conclusion 

If at the end of our long toad we look back at our point 
of departure we may be uncertain whether \vc have attained 
out end, A philosophy of culture begins with the assumption 
that the world of human culture is not a mere aggregate of 
loose and detached facts. It seeks to understand these facts 
as a system, as an organic whole. For an empirical or historical 
view it would seem to be enough to collect the data of human 
culture. Here we are interested in the breadth of human life. 
We are engrossed in a study of the particular phenomena in 
their richness and variety; we enjoy the polychramy and the 
polyphony of man’s nature. But a philosophical analysis set! 
itself a different task. Its starting point and its working hypoth- 
esis are embodied in the conviction that the varied and seem- 
ingly dispersed rays may be gathered together and brought ' 
into a common focus. The facts here are reduced to forms, 
and these forms themselves are supposed to possess an inner 
unity. But have we been able to prove this essential point? 
Did not all our individual analyses show us just the opposite? 
For we have had to stress all along the specific character and 
structure of the various symbolic forms-of myth, language, 
art, religion, history, science. Bearing in mind this aspect of 



our investigation we may perhaps feel inclined to favor the 
converse thesis, the thesis of the discontinuity and radical 
heterogeneity of human culture. 

From a merely ontological or metaphysical point of view 
it would be very difficult indeed to refute this thesis. But for 
a critical philosophy the problem assumes another face. Here 
we are under no obligation to prove the substantial unity of 
man. Man is no longer considered as a simple substance whicl? 
exists in itself and is to be known by itself. His unity is con- 
ceived as a functional unity. Such a unity does not presuppose 
a homogeneity of the various elements of which it consists. 
Not merely does it admit of, it even requires, a multiplicity 
and multiformity of its constituent parts. For this is a dialectic 
unity, a coexistence of contraries. 

“Men do not understand," said Heraclitus, "how that 
which is torn in different directions comes into accord with 
itself-haimony in contrariety, as in the case of the bow and 
the lyre." 1 In order to demonstrate such a harmony we need 
not prove the identity or similarity of the different forces by 
which it is produced. The various forms of human culture are 
not held together by an identity in their nature but by a con- 
formity in their fundamental task, If there is an equipoise in 
human culture it can only be described as a dynamic, not as 
a static equilibrium; it is the result of a struggle between op- 
posing forces. This struggle docs not exclude that “hidden 
harmony’’ which, according to Heraclitus, “is better than that 
which is obvious." 2 

Aristotle’s definition of man as a “social animal” is not 
sufficiently comprehensive. It gives us a generic concept but 
not the specific difference. Sociability as such is not an ex- 
clusive characteristic of man, nor is it the privilege of man 
alone. In the so-called animal states, among bees and ants, 
we find a clear-cut division of labor and a surprisingly com- 
plicated social organization. But in the case of man we find 

1. Heraclitus, Fragment 51, in Diels, Die Fiagmente der Vorso- 
kratiker (;th ed.) . English tans, by Charles M. Bakewell, Source 
Book in Ancient Philosophy (New York, Charles Scribner’s Sons, 
1907), p. 31. 

2. Idem, Fragment 54, in Bakewell, op. cit., p. 31. 


not only, as among animals, a society of action but also a 
society of thought and feeling. Language, myth, art, religion, 
science are the elements and the constitutive conditions of 
this higher form of society. They aie die means by which the 
forms of social life that we find in organic nature develop 
into a new state, that of social consciousness. Man's social 
consciousness depends upon a double act, of identification and 
discrimination. Man cannot find himself, he cannot become 
aware of his individuality, save through the medium of social 
life. But to him this medium signifies more than an external 
determining force. Man, like the animals, submits to the 
rules of society but, in addition, he has an active share in 
bringing about, and an active power to change, the forms of 
social life. In the rudimentary stages of human society such 
activity is still scarcely perceptible; it appears to be at a 
minimum. But the farther we proceed the more explicit and 
significant this feature becomes. This slow development can 
be traced in almost all forms of human culture. 

It is a well-known fact that many actions performed in 
animal societies are not only equal but in sonic respects su- 
perior to the works of man. It has often been pointed out that 
bees in the construction of their cells act like a perfect geom- 
eter, achieving the highest precision and accuracy. Such 
activity requires a very complex system of coordination and 
collaboration. But in all these animal performances we find 
no individual differentiation. They arc all produced in the 
same way and according to the same invariable rules. No lati- 
tude remains for individual choice or ability. It is only when 
we arrive at the higher stages of animal life that wc meet the 
first traces of a certain individualization. Wolfgang Koehler's 
observations of anthropoid apes seem to prove that there are 
many differences in the intelligence and skill of these animals. 
One of them may be able to solve a task which for another 
. remqins insoluble. And here we may even speak of individual 
“inventions," For the general structure of animal life, how- 
ever, all this is irrelevant. This structure is determined by the 
general biological law according to which acquired characters 
are not capable of hereditary transmission. Every perfection 
that an organism can gain in the course of its individual life 



its confined to its own existence and does not influence the 
1' life of the species. Even man is no exception to this general 
biological rule. But man has discovered a new way to stabi- 
lize and propagate his worlcs. lie cannot live his life without 
expressing his life, The various modes of this expression con- 
stitute a new sphere. They have a life of their own, a sort 
i of eternity by which they survive man's individual and 
ephemeral existence. In all human activities we find a funds-* 
mental polarity, which may be described in various ways. We 
may speak of a tension between stabilization and evolution, 
between a tendency that leads to fixed and stable forms of 
life and another tendency to break up this rigid scheme. Man 
is torn between these two tendencies, one of which seeks to 
•preserve old forms whereas the other strives to produce new 
ones. There is a ceaseless struggle between tradition and inno- 
vation, hetween reproductive and creative forces. This dualism 
is to be found in all the domains of cultural life. What varies 
is the proportion of the opposing factors. Now the one factor, 
now the other, seems to preponderate. This preponderance to 
• a high degree determines the character of the single forms and 
gives to each of them its particular physiognomy. 

In myth and in primitive religion the tendency to stabili- 
zation is so strong that it entirely outweighs the opposite pole. 
These two cultural phenomena seem to be the most conserva- 
tive powers in human life. Mythical thought is, by its origin 
.and by its principle, traditional thought. For myth has no 
Lmeans of understanding, explaining, and interpreting the 
present form of human life other than to reduce it to a remote 
past. What has its roots in this mythical past, what has been 
ever since, what has existed from immemorial times, is firm 
and unquestionable. To call it into question would be a 
‘ sacrilege. For the primitive mind there is no more sacred 
thing than the sacredness of age. It is age that gives to all 
things, to physical objects and to human institutions, their 
value, their dignity, their moral and religious worth. In order 
to maintain this dignity it becomes imperative to continue 
and to preserve the human order in the same unalterable 
shape. Any breach of continuity would destroy the very sub- 
stance of mythical and religious life. From the point of view 


of primitive thought the slightest alteration in the established 
scheme of things is disastrous. The wards of a magic formula, 
of a spell or incantation, the single phases of a religious act, 
of a sacrifice or a prayer, all this must be repeated in one and 
the same invariable order. Any change would annihilate the 
force and efficiency of the magical word or religious rite. 
Primitive religion can therefore leave no room for any freedom 
of individual thought. It prescribes its fixed, rigid, inviolable 
rules not only for every human action but also for every hu- 
man feeling. Tire life of man is under a constant pressure, It 
is enclosed in tire narrow circle of positive and negative de- 
mands, of consecrations and prohibitions, of observances and 
taboos. Nevertheless the history of religion shows us that this 
first form of religious thought by no means expresses its real 
meaning and its end. Here too we find a continuous advance 
in the opposite direction. The ban under which human life 
was put by primitive mythical and religious thought is grad- 
ually relaxed, and at last it seems to have lost its binding 
force. There arises a new dynamic form of religion that opens 
a fresh perspective of moral and religious life. In such a 
dynamic teligion the individual powers have won the prepon- 
derance over the mere powers of stabilization. Religions life 
has reached its maturity and its freedom; it has broken the 
spell of a rigid traditionalism. 8 

If from the field of mythical and religious thought we pass 
to language we find here, in a different shape, the same 
fundamental process. Even language is one of the firmest con- 
servative powers in human culture. Without this conservatism 
it could not fulfil its principal task, communication. Com- 
munication requires strict rules. Linguistic symbols and forms 
must have a stability and constancy in order to resist the 
dissolving and destructive influence of time. Nevertheless 
phonetic change and semantic change are not only accidental 
features in the development of language. They are inherent 
and necessary conditions of this development. One of the 
principal reasons for this continual change is the fact that 
language has to be transmitted from one generation to 

3. For further details see above, Chap. VII, pp. 87 ff, 


another. This transmission is not possible by mere reproduc- 
tion of fixed and stable forms. The process of the acquisition 
of language always involves an active and productive attitude. 
Even the child’s mistakes are very characteristic in this 
respect. Far from being mere failures that arise from an in- 
sufficient power of memory or reproduction, they are the best 
1 proofs of activity and spontaneity on the part of the child. 
In a comparatively early stage of its development the child 1 
seems to have gained a certain feeling of the general structure 
of its mother tongue without, of course, possessing any ab- 
stract consciousness of linguistic rules. It uses words or 
sentences that it never has heard and that are infractions of 
the morphologic or syntactic rules. But it is in these very at- 
' tempts that the child’s keen sense for analogies appears. In 
these he proves his ability to grasp the form of language in- 
stead of merely reproducing its matter. The transference of a 
language from one generation to another is, therefore, never 
to be compared to a simple transfer of property by which a 
material thing, without altering its nature, only changes 
possession. In his Prinzipien der Sprcichgmhichte Hermann 
Paul kid special stress upon this point, He showed by con- 
crete examples that the historical evolution of a language de- 
pends to a large degree on those slow and continual changes 
that take place in the transference of words and linguistic 
forms from parents to children. According to Paul this proc- 
ess is to be regarded as one of the principal reasons for the 
•-phenomena of sound shift and semantic changed In all this 
we feel very distinctly the presence of two different tendencies 
-the one leading to the conservation, the other to the renova- 
tion and rejuvenation of language. We can, however, scarcely 
speak of an opposition between these two tendencies. They 
are in perfect equipoise; they are the two indispensable ele- 
ments and conditions of the life of language. 

A new aspect of the same problem is given us in s the . 
development of art. Here, however, the second factor-the 
factor of originality, individuality, creativeness-seems defi- 
nitely to prevail over the first. In art we are not content with 

4. H. Paul, Prinzipien der Sprachgesclu'chfe (4th ed. 1909), p. 63. 


the repetition or reproduction of traditional forms. We sense 
a new obligation; we introduce new critical standards. "Medio- > 
cribus esse poetis non di, non homines, non cDncessere 
columnae," says Horace in liis Ars Poetica (“Mediocrity of 
poets is not allowed, either by the gods, or men, or the 
pillars which sustain the booksellers’ shops"). To be sure even 
here tradition still plays a paramount role. As in the case of 
'language the same forms are transmitted from one generation 
to another. The same fundamental motives of art recur over 
and over again. Nevertheless every great artist in a certain 
sense makes a new epoch. We become aware of this fact when 
comparing our ordinary forms of speech with poetical lan- 
guage. No poet can create an entirely new language. He has to 
adopt the words and he has to respect the fundamental rules ■ 
of his language. To all this, however, the poet gives not only 
a new turn but also a new life. In poetry the words are not 
only significant in an abstract way; they are no mere pointers 
by which we wish to designate certain empirical objects, Here 
we meet with a sort of metamorphosis of nil our common 
words. Every verse of Shakespeare, every stanza of Dante or 
Ariosto, every lyrical poem of Goethe has its peculiar sound. 
Lessing said that it is just as impossible to steal a verse of 
Shakespeare as to steal the club of Hercules, And what is even 
more astounding is the fact that a great pod never repeats 
himself. Shakespeare spoke a language that had never been 
heard before-and every Shakespearean character speaks his 
own incomparable and unmistakable language. In Lear and 
Macbeth, in Brutus or Hamlet, in Rosalind or Beatrice we 
hear this personal language which is the mirror of an individ- 
ual soul. In this manner alone poetry is able to express all 
those innumerable nuances, those delicate shades of feeling, 
that are impossible in other modes of expression. If language 
in its development is in need of constant renovation there is 
no better and deeper source for this than poetry. Great poetry 
always makes a sharp incision, a definite caesura, in the his- 
tory of language. The Italian language, the English language, 
the German language were not the same at the death of 
Dante, of Shakespeare, of Goethe as they had been at the 
day of then birth. 


In our aesthetic theories the difference between the con- 
servative and the productive powers on which the work of art 
depends was always felt and expressed. At all times there has 
been a tension and conflict between the theories of imitation 
and inspiration. The first declares that the work of art has to 
be judged according to fixed and constant rules Or according 
rto classical models. The second rejects all standards or canons 
of beauty. Beauty is unique and incomparable, it is the work* 
of the genius. It was this conception which, after a long 
struggle against theories of classicism and neoclassicism, be- 
came prevalent in the eighteenth century and which paved 
the way for our modern aesthetic. “Genius,” says Kant in his 
Critique of Judgment, “is the innate mental disposition 
ingenium ) through which Natme gives the rule to Art.” It 
• is “a talent for producing that for which no definite rule can 
be given; it is not a mere aptitude for what can be learnt by 
a rule. Hence originality must be its first property.” This 
form of originality is the prerogative and distinction of art; 
it cannot be extended to other fields of human activity. “Na- 
•ture by the medium of genius does not prescribe rules to 
Science, but to Art; and to it only in so far as it is to be beauti- 
ful Art." We may speak of Newton as a scientific genius; but 
in this case we speak only metaphorically, “Thus we can 
readily learn all that Newton has set forth in his immortal 
work on the Principles of Natural Philosophy, however great 
vi head was required to discover it; but we cannot learn to 
Unite spirited poetry, however express may be the precepts of 
the art and however excellent its models." 5 

The relation between subjectivity and objectivity, individu- 
ality and universality, is indeed not the same in the work of 
art as it is in tire work of the scientist. It is true that a great 
■^scientific discovery also bears the stamp of the individual 
mind of its author, In it we find not merely a new objective 
aspect of tilings but also an individual attitude of mind and 
even a persona! style. But all this has only a psychological, not 
a systematic relevance. In the objective content of science 

5. Kant, Cnlique of Judgment, secs. 46, 47. English trans. by J. H. 
^Bernard (London, Macmillan, 1892), pp. 188-190. 


these individual features arc foigotten and effaced, (or one of 
the principal aims of scientific thought is the elimination ■ 
of all personal and anthropomorphic elements. In the words of 
Bacon, science strives to conceive the world “ex analogic! 
tmiversi ,” not “ex analogic! homines." 8 
Human culture taken as a whole may be described as the 
process of man’s progressive self-liberation. Language, ait, re- > 
digion, science, are various phases in this process. In all of them 
man discovers and proves a new power-the power to build 
up a world of his own, an “idea!” wmld. Philosophy cannot 
give up its search for a fundamental unity in this ideal woild. 
But it does not confound this unity with simplicity. It does 
not overlook the tensions and frictions, the strong contrasts 
and deep conflicts between the various powers of man. These - 
cannot he reduced to a common denominator. They tend in 
different directions and obey different piinciples, But this 
multiplicity and disparateness do not denote discord or dis- 
harmony. All these functions complete and complement one 
another. Each one opens a new horizon and shows us a new 
aspect of humanity. The dissonant is in hiumony with itself; • 
the contraries arc not mutually exclusive, but interdependent: 
“harmony in contrariety, as in the ease of the bow and the 

6. Cf, Bacon, Novum Organum, Liber I, Aphor. XLI. 


Abstraction, 6 if., 174, i04f. 
Accidental variations, 37 
Actuality, & possibility, 79-86 
Aeschylus, 119, 129, 407 
Aesthetics, 176-516 {see Art, 
Beauty, Poetics) ; history 
of: Aristotle, 177-179, 183, 
198; Baumgarten, 198; 
Groce, 181, 193,' French clas- 
sicism, 179, 194, 204; Kant, 
176!!., 186; Plato, 188, 191; 
Platonism, 207; romanticism, 
195^5 Schiller, 196; Shaftes- 
bury, ao6; Swiss school, 195. 
f Theories of art: hedonism, 
202-204; metaphysical, 198, 
203; naturalism, 186, aoo; 
play, 208; theory of genius, 

Affections, 47, 48, 152 
Agnosticism, 30. See Scepticism 
Alchemy, 563, 271 
^Algebra, 69 
Allegory, 177. See Myth 
Analogies, in language, 283 
Anatomy, comparative, 42, 90 
Anaxagoras, 119 
Ancestors, see Religion, Totcm- 

Animals: reactions, 44-45 ; as- 
sociation of ideas, 52 j emo- 
^ tions, 48, 150; gestures, 48; 
^ imagination, 52; inner & 
outer world, 42b; instincts, 
77 f : » 9 0-9 1 , 279-280; in- 
telligence, 5 if.; language, 
48 - 53 1 tQOf,; memory, 73; 
play, 2 1 of. 5 reactions, 43, 45, 
47 - 52 ; sense of the future, 
r 7B; signs, tokens, 45, 50; 
states, 279f.; symbolic proc- 
esses, 46, 49. See Religion 
Animism, 127, 136 
Anthropology, Christian, 24-29; 
empirical, see Ethnology; 
Greek, 18-23; philosophical, 
33 J primitive, 17 
Anthropomorphism, 119, 129, 
r 241 

Antony, 23of. 

Apes, 48, 49, 59, 60, 2 Go 
Aphasia, 4811., 62, 8r 
Aristophanes, 191, 192 
Aristotle, 1 6, 36, 145, 157, I77 ? 
i? 9 3 i 83 » 189, 190, 198, 203, 
205, 272, 279 

Arithmetic, 84, 276 « 

Art, 176-216 ( see Aesthetics, 
Beauty, Poetics) j categories 
of art, 94-95; & science, 
iflsf., 2 igf. AESTHETIC EX- 
PERIENCE; 186-194; elements 
of: contemplation, 187-191, 
206; emotion, 187-192, 241; 
expression, 180—186 ; imagi- 
nation, 194-202; imitation, 

1 77f. ; inspiration, 285^.; in- 
tuition, 182-187; reflection, 

art & . dream, 205-208; & 
hypnosis, 206 ; & intoxication, 
208 ; pleasure, 202-205. 
structure: art & life, 21 r- 
214; & language, 1 7*7, 214; & 
logic, 177; & morality, 177, 
213; & myth, see Myth, Po- 
etics; & nature, 178, 19$ 
Arts: architecture, 197; expres- 
sive, 182, 187; music, 178, 
187, 192; painting, 17B, 184, 
189, j 97; poetry, soe Poetics; 
representative, 178, 182, 187; 
sculpture, 184, 197, 215 
Association of ideas, 52, 53, 90, 

Astrology, 70, 71, 263-265 
Astronomy, 68-71, 263, 265, 

Atomism, 2 7 off. 

Augustine, 25I, 76, 228 
Automatism, 90; in primitive 
life, n 9 

Babylonian culture, 68-70, 265 
Bacon, F., 99, 20 1, 286 * 

Balzac, 200, 260 
Baumgarten, A., 177 
Beauty [see Art & Aesthetics), 
aesthetic & organic, 194; 
“easy” heauty, 192, 210; & 
freedom, 21 iff.; & number, 


266; & truth, 179. DEFINI- 
TIONS of: metaphysical, 
psychological, 193, 
“inner form/’ 207, “living 
form,” 194, pleasure < objec- 
tified, 203#.; unity in the 
manifold, 184 

Beethoven, L,, 187, 192, 254 
Bergson, 75, 116-118, 134, 205 
^Berkeley, 65 

‘Biology {see Darwinism, Evolu- 
tion, Psychobiology), & cul- 
ture, 278-382; deduction in, 
272; influence upon linguis- 
tics, 149; and mathematics, 
35!. history: Aristotle, 272; 
Darwin, see Darwinism; Lin- 
naeus, 264; Theophrastus, 
272; Uexkifll, 41-42 
Bodmer, 195 
Boileau, 194 
Bolyai, 84 

Breasted, J. H., 112 
Breitinger, 195 

Bridgman, Laura, 53-37, bin., 

Brondal, 16 1, 165 
Bruno, Giordano, 32, 135 
Buckle, 249, 2 53 
Burckhardt, J., 219, 256, «59 
Categories, structural, of human 
culture, 94-96; syntactic, 165 
Catharsis, 189-192 
Cato, 251 

Causality, historical, 244; law 
of, 276. See Determinism 
Cervantes, 187, 192, 260 
Chance, 36; solutions, 52. See 
Accidental variations 
Chemistry, & alchemy, 263; 
atomic number of elements, 
184; deductive structure of, 
272; history of, 271-272. See 

Child psychology: consciousness 
of future, 8 in.; cries, 143; 
feeling-qualities, 104; mem- 
ory, 76; play, 209-211; possi- 
bility & actuality, 80; speech, 
3-581 169L, 171, 283; syra- 
. olism, 51-57 
Cicero, 230L 
Classicism. See Aesthetics 

Classification, c>f arts, iee Art’ 
‘‘classifying instinct," 263; 
language, 26af . ; in myth v 
262; in natural history, 264’ 
Cleopatra, 2 3 of. 

Codriogtou, R. H., 126 
Collective representations, iofif. 

See Primitive mentality 
Collingwood, R. G., 182 
Comte, Auguste, 88 
Consciousness, historical, a 18 
227; moral, 126; self-corn 
sciousness, 20; unity of, 262 
Continuum, mathematical, 268 
Contradiction, in human nature, 
25-29; law of, 27, 106 
Corneille, 198 

Cosmogony, cosmology: Coper- 
nic&n, 30-32; Greek, 18; idea' 
of cosmic order, 67ft. ; myth- 
ical, 124L; primitive, 70 
Croce, B., r 8 r , 193, 214, 226 
Culture, unity of, 96, 279-286; 
man &, 87-221 ; phenomenol- 
ogy of, 75; structural & his- 
torical view of human cul- 
ture, 93—96; Sc symbolism, ■ 
4 T “45> 55“ba- See Symbolism 
Dalton, 27a 

Dante, 179m, 191, 198, 203, 284 
Darwin, 35!!., go, 149, 210, 

Darwinism, 35, 36, 37, gBf., 49, 
149, 157. Set Evolution 
Death: cults of, na; in primi- 
tive thought, 11 of.; myths of 1 
origin, in. Sea Immortality* 
Dedekind, 267 
Democritus, 149, 270 
Descartes, 15, 26, 29, 33, 51, 
71, 223, 269, 270 _ 
Determinism, historical, 24pf., 
248, 252 ; in modern physics, 

Dewey, John, 91, 104 
Dialectic^ Hegelian, 25, 238; 

Socvatic, 20, 25 
Dilthey, W., 2 in., 245 
Distinction of reason, 60 
Dostoievsky 187, 260 
Diirer, A., 193 
Dttrkheim, E,, 106 
Egyptians, 6g, 112 

Einstein, A., 275, 27B 
Elcatic school, 18, 146, 217. 
Electromagnetic field, 157 
Empedocles, 146 
Empiricism, & nativism, 64 
Enlightenment, 86, 242 
Epictetus, 28, 43. See Stoicism 
Epicurus, 149 
Ethics, 37, S3, 79, 84, 117 
Ethnology, 67, looff., 105, 119 
Etymology, scientific, 147 
Euripides, 119, 187, 207, 238, 

Evolution, creative, 134; and 
stabilization in human cul- 
ture, 281; theory of, 35, 49, 
90 , U 9 > * 57 , 158, 264- See 
, Darwinism 
Fabre, J., 77 

Facts, historical & physical, 220, 
232, 233 , 247; & Ideals, 79- 
80; scientific, 8^£. ; & 

theories, 2 a of. 

Family, 129 
Faraday, M,, 157 
.Fear, U4f. See Taboo 
Ferrero, G. s 2 3 off, 

Fichte, J. G., 198 
Flaubert, G., 200, 260 
Form, in art, 181-187, 189, 
rg7f., 204, 206, 209; “living 
form,” 194, 2u ; matter &, 
aoGf.; philosophy of symbolic 
forms, 92-95. (See Symbol- 
ic ism, Beauty,) 

razor, ioi, 110, rai, 123, 135 
reedom, aesthetic, 190-192, 
211-214; & causality, 244!; 
religious ideal of, 1321., Stoic, 
Frege, 267 
Freud, S., 39, 100 
* Fustel de Coulanges, 1*3 
Future, 76-78; ethical, 78; 
ideal, 78 ; sense of future in 
animalfl, 77, in children, see 
Child psychology; theoretical 
idea of, 77 

Galileo, 33, 83, 86, 240, 278 
Gardiner, A. H., 152, 266 
r Gauss, K., 35, 84, 276 
Genius, theory of,. 285-286 
Geometry, analytical, 71, 269; 

INDEX 289 

esprit gfomMrique, 27-28; 
non-Euclidean, 84, 274; 

Pythagorean, 268 
Gesture, & speech, 48, 53, 182 
Gillen, F. J,, no, rn 
Goethe, 75, 85, 172, i8of., 187, 
191, 201, 213, 225, 237, 248, 
258, 284 

Goldstein, K,, 6 an., 81 , 82m 
Grace, & nature, 26, 27 *- 

Grammar: grammaire ginirale 
et raisonnee, 164; history of, 
159; & logic, 163; part-of- 
speech-system, 1598.; philos- 
ophy of, 165. comparative: 
Bantu, 167; Germanic, 154, 
159; Indo-European, 154* 
Indonesian & Melanesian, 

Greek philosophy, 18-23, 33, 
&5, 12 4> 133, 145, 261, 262, 
2 66. See Aristotle, Heraclitus, 

Grimm, Jalcob, 154, 159 
Groethuyscn, B., sin. 

Harmony, a68f., 277 
Hedonism, 202-204 
Hegel, G. W., aoi, 225-238 
Heisenberg, 276 
Helmholtz, 64, 276, 277m, 278 
Heraclitus, 62, 72, xig, 145, 
147, 185, 218, 227, 279f. 
Herder, Go, 61, 219, 22 5f. 
Heredity, 73 
Hering, E., 72 
Hesiod, 119, 129 
History, 217-260. function 
op : interpretation of symbols, 
222-235, 243-246; recollec- 
tion in, 234, 259; symbolic 
reconstruction, 221, 224f., 

233-234, 24(jf. HISTORICAL 
consciousness: develop- 

ment of, 219!; “historic 
sense,* * 224-227. historiog- 
Buckle, 249!. ; Burckhardt, 
219, 240, 257; Herder, 225b j 
Lamprecht, 252-255; Ma- 
caulay, 248; Mommsen, 230, 
234E, 257; Niebuhr, 242; 
political historians, 337 ^* » 
Ranke, 22of., 225, 236-240; 

Tame, 243-247; Thucydides, 
358. logic; of: character of 
historical facta, 220, 331, 
347; "expressive” facta, 248, 
255; objectivity of historical 
knowledge, 237^243; t yP ical 
features in history, 218; 
"uniqueness" of history, 236; 
universal, 235!. methods of 
critical, 242 ; pragmatic, 242, 
248; reduction to psycholog- 
ical types, 251-253; statis- 
tical, 249. philosophy of: 
aa6f., 360; economic ma- 
terialism, 252ff.; historical 
determinism, 244; natural- 
ism, 25lff. STRUCTURE OF 

(see Myth) : & natural 

science, 223, 235!., 243-247, 
256; nature &, 217-219; 
philosophy &, 225k; & poetry, 
258-259. value of : 226; 
ethical conception of, 239; as 
self-knowledge, 88 
Holderlin, 187 
Homer, 119, 129 
Horace, 77, 178, 2 84 
Hume, 60, 158, J93 
Hypnosis, and art, 206 
Hypotheses, in ethics, 85; facts 
&, 79-86 

Idealism, 146, 344 
Ideals, ethical,- 84; & experi- 
ence, 85; facts &, 79-86; 
ideal world, 62; ideas & im- 
pressions, 55 

Imagination, 75 (see Art) ; 
ethical, 84; historical, 258; in 
myth, 195; in play, Qogf., 
productive, 198; romantic 
theory of, 198 
Immortality, 1 1 1 ? 112, 333 
Incommensurability, 26 8f. 
Individuality, & society, n8f„ 
126, 129, 134, 252, *8of. 
Inertia, law of, 83; of matter, 


Infinite, infinity: Apeiron, 267; 
modern^ concept of, 30, 32, 
33; religious conception of, 
127; as subject of art, 199 
Infinitesimal calculus, 33 

Instincts, animal, 77k, qq } 

280; classification of, 91 \ 

Intelligence, animal, see 1 
Animals; definition, 5a; hu- 
man, gof. 

Interjections, 47, 149, 151, 182 
Interpretation, in art, 182, 
18615.; historical, see History , r 
Introspection, 75!. See Psychol-*' 4 
ogy. Self-knowledge 
Intuition, in art, 182-187 ; con- 
cepts & intuitions, 80; in 
metaphysics, 205 ; religious, 

‘ *33 

Irrationalism, 44, 97, 205 
Jackson, 48m 
ames, William, gi 
espersen, O., 151, 165, 263 fc ' 
Jevons, F. B., 136 $ 

Kant, 44, 72, 79f'j 84L, ioi> 
157, 176, 185, 186, 202, 218, 
223, 244, 262 
Keller, Helen, 53^, i6gf. 
Kierkegaard, S. s 97 
Knowledge, character of human . 
knowledge, 80; theory of* 
ia.6, Soc Self-knowledge 
Koehler, 48, 52, sgf., 77, 280 
laguna, Grace dc, 152 
Lamprccht, K., 252-233 
Language, 142-176 (m Gram- 
mar, Linguistics, Speech) ; 
of animal, see Animals; func- 
tion of, 154.fl,; & myth, 142, 
148; objectification in, J52ffvj 
& poetry, 284; & reality, 144^ 
as "symbolic form" 

Origin of, 45, 60; animal 
cries, 146/.; biological 
theories, 149-153; mono- 
syllabic roots, 166; mythical 
explanation, 153; sound imi-j 
tation, i46f. philosophy of,' 
145-147, I55L PSYCHOLOGY 
of, see Child psychology. 
Psychopathology of, see 
Aphasia. Structure: emo- 
tional & propositional lan- 
guage, 44, 48, 1 sof. ; "inner 
form," 163, 166; language 
& reason, 44 

Languages: American, 155> 
174; Bantu, 167; Chinese, 


ifi-a, 166; Indo-European, 
i 54 » 164; Indonesian, 156 ; 
Melanesian, 156] "primi- 
tive, 11 166; types, 166 
Leibniz, 72, 167, 227, 275 
Leonardo da Vinci, 184, 189 
L 4 vy-Bruhl, 106L 
Life, 4 if., 72, 75; solidarity of, 
in mythical thought, 109L 
See Art, Biology 
Linguistics ( see Language, 
Grammar) : etymology, 147. 
Grimm, 159 j von Humbolt, 
156, 157; New Grammarians, 

1 6 of.; Trubetzkoy, 160. 
method: descriptive, his- 
. torical, 154- 157; principles 
of linguistic histoiy, 283; psy- 
chological, 283; “synchron- 
ical,” Anachronical,” 158. 
phonetics (phonology) : 
phonemes, definition, 162, 
163m; phonetic change, j 54, 
I59ff., 28a; phonetic’ laws, 

• i6of.j phonetic pattern, 162L 
Linnaeus, 264 
Lobatschcvski, 84 
Logic, 27, 106; and grammar, 
163; of history, 222L; of 
imagination, 176, 196] sym- 
bolic, 167 

Logos, 144, H 7 S 163 
Macrocosm and microcosm, 
r 146, 270 

iJtfagic, tot, 107, i2aff., 131, 
t35j 139 

Malinowski, 100, 119, 12 1, 125 
Mal]arm6, Stiphane, 183, 212 
Man*. &. nature, 132. defini- 
tion of: aesthetic, 21 1; 
^ •> animal rationale , 20-23, 44; 
animal symbolicum, 44; func- 
tional, 93; as "historical be- 
ing, !> 217; & human culture, 
87-96; social animal, 279. 
problem of : in Christian 
philosophy, 84-30; in Greek 
philosophy, 19, 20, 22-24, 
147; in modern philosophy, 

Mana, 120, 125, 127, 13 r 
Marcus Aurelius, 23-25, 28 


Marx, K„ 39 

Materialism, economic, 252L 
Mathematics (see Algebra, 
Arithmetic, Geometry) : his- 
tory, 69, 83, 84^ 2 1 8, 267, 
273; mathesis universalis, 71, 
214; mythical conception of, 
70. Philosophy of, 270; "pride 
of human reason,” 185; as 
symbolic language, 273 * 

Matter, & form, 26 if. 

Maxwell, 157, 278 
Meaning: aesthetic, in play, 
21 1 ; & being, 80; in history, 
222, 234, 251. linguistics: 
“area of meaning,” 266; 
change of, 283; of sounds, 
161 ; (see Language). "Mean- 
ing of meaning,” 145; of 
myths, 99L 

Medicine, history of, 271 

Mcillet, A., 166 

Memory (see Animals, Mneme) ; 

symbolic, 72-76 
Menander, 222 
Metaphors, 149 

Metaphysics, 27, 32, 33, 34, 45, 
75 . 118 

Milton, 195, 203 
Mneme, 73 

Moltere, 187, 192, 260 
Mommsen, Th., 230, 234 . 257 
Montaigne, 15, 31, 32 
Montesquieu, 86, 255 
More, Thomas, 85 
Mozart, 19a 
Muller, F. Max, 142 
Murray, Gilbert, 120 
Music, 26f>f., 268. See Art 
Mutation, 49 

Mysticism, 134; mystic partici- 
pation, 106; & reason, 107 
Myth; & art, ioi, classification 
in, 263; & language , t4 2 ^> 
& poetry, 101 ; & religion, 97“ 
142; & ritual, 105; & science, 
ioi, 103, 262; space & time, 
62 ; structure of, conceptual & 
perceptual, 102-104, 109. in- 
terpretation of: 9gf., refi- 

Mythology, comparative, 9^5 
language &, 142L, lunar, 


solar, 69, too; meteorologi- 
cal, 100 

Names, 53ft.; & concepts, 3 7 - 4 » 
general function of, i 7 °> J 73 J 
of gods, 57, & interjections, 
149ft. j name-giving process, 
2G3; proper, 575 origin, 15IJ 
scientific, 264; & things, 17s 
Nativism, 64 

Naturalism, in art, see Art; in 
cultural philosophy, 90 
Nature, & art, 178!.; natural his- 
tory, 223, 264; religious con- 
ception, 131b (nature & 
grace, see Grace} ; and 
society, 143 (state 01 nature, 
86). See Biology, Chemistry, 

Neoplatonism, 25 
New Grammarians, 160, 161 
Newton, 65, 277, 285 
Niet2sche, 39, 207!., 226 
Northrop, F. S. C., 273 
Number: aesthetic concept of, 
2G6; magic, 70. philosoph- 
ical theory op: objectivity 
of, 275; Platonic theory, 
273f.j & reality, 104 {see 
Pythagoreans) ; & truth, 266 ; 
universality of, 265ft. 
science: mathematical con- 
cept, 8/jf., 185, 266, 268 
Objectification: in art, iBgf., 
*87, 193, 204; language, 

I52ff.; science, 204, 261, 26G 
Obligations, religious, 139-142 ; 

social, 137, 141. See Taboo 
Ogden, C. K., 145m 
Optics, physiological, 64 
Orenda, 125, 129 
Organism, 41 ft., 63, 72b Sea 
Biology, Life 
Original sin, 28 

Originality, and tradition, 

Ortega y Gasset, 212, 2i8fF. 
Panfienides, 146, See Eleatic 
Participation, mystic, 106 
Pascal, B,, 26-29, 97, 230 
Paul, Hermann, 154 
Pavlov, 46, 51, 56 
Peano, 267 

Perception, 58, 26 if,; mythical, 

I02ff,; sense & aesthetic, 
285b, *92 

Pericles, 258 

Personification, in myth and 
poetry, 196 

Physics, 157, 225, 262, 269 
Physiognomic experience, 102ft. 
Planck, M., 221, 241, 278 
Plato, 32, 65, in, 146, 147, ' 
188, 228, U33, 255L, 267, 

Play, & art, 208ft. 

Poetics ( see Aesthetics) , history, 
178, 194, 1 95 i *98, 284 
Poetry: & history, 183, 257- 
260; & myth, see Myth; origin 
of, 196; & philosophy, 199b; 

& prose, rggf., 283b; & self- , 
knowledge, 75 ! & truth, 75, 
genera; comedy, 187, 191, 
192; diama, 183!., iB8, 194, 
207; lyric, 180, 182, 196, 
213L; ttagedy [see Cathar- 
sis), 187, 191, 198, 207 
Possibility & actuality, 79-86 
Prclogical thought, 106 
Presentation, & representation, 


Primitive mentality, Oo, 105, 
107, 28 if.; space in, G6f. 
See Language, Religion 
Property, origin of, 141 
Prophets, 78, 134, 136, 140, 141 
Providence, 30, 133 
Psychoanalysis, 1 00, 124, See~ 
Freud_ % 

Psychobiology, 46ft., 52, 63L 
See Animals, Biology 
Psychology : methods: be- 
haviorism, 15, 16, 41 ; intro- 
spection, 15, 169 [see Self- 
knowledge); Gestalt, 58; 
mathematical, 35; of mem- 
ory, 73 ; of perception, see 
Perception; of space percep- 
tion, 64ft. See Psychobiology, 
Animals, Child, Art, Lan- 
guage, Myth, Religion 
Pythagoreans, 70, 83, 104, 261, 
265-268, 274 

Qualities, feeling, 1 02-105 
Quantum mechanics, 270, 276 

Ranke, L. v., 22 of,, 225, 237— 

Rask, R, K., 159 
Recognition, 61, 73 
Recollection, 74ft, , 259 
Reflexes, conditioned, 51 
Relations, abstract meaning of, 
8; & number, 269; & sym- 
olic thought, 58 
Relativity, theory of, 275 
Religion, 97-142: & ethics, 
136!!.; & magic, 115, 1 aaff. ; 
Sc mythology, 17; origin of, 

1 12, 113, jigf.; & reason, 28, 
44, 97; reason & revelation, 
28 ; static & dynamic, 11 62., 

I 35 &, 282 . FORMS OF WOR- 
SHIP: ancestor worship, 109, 
112; China, naf., Greece & 
Rome, 113, 134; animal, 119 
{see Totemisrn); plants, no. 
idea of OOD: 79; functional, 
120 ; personal, 119 . psycho- 
logical origin of: fear, 114, 
115; feeling of dependency, 
85 . 

Religions: Buddhism, 18; Chi- 
nese, uvf.; Christian, 25-30, 
14a; Confucianism, 18; 
Greek, 113, up; Judaism, 
18, 79, 136, 140, 142; primi- 
tive, 105, uoff., 124, i«6, 
1362., 140, 282; Roman, 113, 
ra8ff.; Semitic, 114, 138, 
r 139; Zoroastrianism, 131ft., 
138, 142 

Rembrandt, 75, 256 
Renaissance, 24, 135, 218, 261, 

Representation, 67 
Responsibility, 133, 137 
. R£v6sz, G., 46 
} Rhetoric, 148 
Richards, I. A., 1450., 2i2f. 
Rickert, H., 235, 247 
Riemann, B., 35, 275 
Rile, ritual, 107, 125; death 
cult, 1 1 2 ; funeral rites, 1 1 4f. ; 
lustration, 138; prior to dog- 
ma, 105 

Robertson-Smith, W., 114, 138 
Romans, 21, 128, 235. See Re- 

INDEX 293 

Romanticism, 165, 195, ig8, 

Rousseau, 43, 86, 149, i8oh, 

Russell, B,, 267 
Sanskrit, 159 
Santayana, 203 
Sapir, E., 162, 169 
Saussure, F. de, 158 
Scepticism, 30; & humanism, yj 
Schcler, Max, 40 
Schell ing, 198 

Schiller, F., 196, 2ioff., 2385 

Schlegel, A. W., 166 
Schlegel, Friedrich, 1G0, 198, 
199) 205) 225, 228 
Schleicher, A., 149, 154 
Schopenhauer, 227 
Science, 261-278; art and, 
28,5f. \ history of, 263, 275; 
language fit, 264L ; methods, 
27af.; myth &, 101-104; ob- 
jectification in, 261-266; 
origin of, 261, 262; philos- 
ophy of,^ 26 m,; process of 
classification, 264 ; scientific 
terminology, 264; standard of 
truth, 263 {See Astronomy, 
Mathematics, etc.) 
Self-knowledge, crisis in, 15- 
40; in history, 241, 25gff. 


Heraclitus, 18; Montaigne, 
15; Pascal, 27b ; Plato, .19, 
87; Socrates, i8ff.; Stoicism, 
21-23; in poetry, 260; in re- 
ligion, 17, 75. See Psychology 
Semantics, 144, 16 1, 246, 248 
Semon, R., 72 

Sensationalism, 55, 58, 65, 74 ) 

Seiise perception, 55, 216 
Shakespeare, 18 yf., 191, 195, 
196, 198, 260, 284 
Signs and symbols, 50-55 
Society, human, specific forth of, 
28of.; & of life in mythical 
thought, 110, 1 14, 143. See 
Animals, Individual 
Sociology, social sciences, 87 , 
88, 94, 106, n8; social 
dynamics, 88f.; social physics. 


89 ; social psychology, 87, 
25 * 

Socrates, i8, 20, 228 
Solidarity of life, 109-114, 133, 

Sophists, 147-148 
Space, abstract, 64$. ; of action, 
64H. ; astrological and as- 
tronomical, 71 ; homogeneity 
t, of, 67 s infinity of, 30 ; magical 
& mythical, 71 ; physiognomic, 
66; representation of, 67; 
Space perception, 64; spatial 
orientation in animals, 63f. ; 
symbolic, 64ft. ; universality 
of, 67. See Geometry, In- 

Space & time, 62-78 ; aesthetics, 
194; in historical thought, 
255; in mythical thought, 63 
Speech, 4,7b, 56, i4of., 149ft., 
152ft. See Language, Child 

Spencer, Herbert, 112, 210 
Statistics, 249, 250, 255, 260 
Steinen, Karl v. d„ no, 175 
Stern, William, 64m, 76 
Stimuli, representative. 46, 51 
Stoicism, 21-24, 99, 124, 134 
Suggestion, and art, 206 
Symbolism, ethics, 84-86; his- 
tory, 22 iff,; & human culture, 
4iff,; mathematics, 69, 265- 
268, 273ft.; myth, 57, 80; 
physics, 8af,; speech, 266; 
symbolic imagination & in- 
telligence, 52; space, 64ft.; 
symbolic thought, 52; symbols 
& signs, 50, 56; universality 

of symbolism, 52ft.; varia- 
bility ol, 56. Sue Art, Lan- 

Sympathy, 124, 133 
Taboo, isbfl'. 

Tame, II., 38!., 90, 17911., 243, 
248, 254JJ. 

Teleology, 36-38 
Thackeray, 260 
Thomas Aquinas, 26, 97 
Thorndike, E. L., 51 
Time, organic, 72; as serial 
order, 8 1. See Space & time, 
History, Tradition 
Tolstoi, 1 88 

Totemjsm, 110, 114, 1 21 
Tradition^ 119; & innovation, 
281ft.; in myth, 28 if. 
Trcitsehkc, H. v., 237 
Trubetzkoy, 1G0 
Tti'th. & poetry, 75; scientific 
standard of, 263. See Beauty 
UcxJiull, J. v., 4 1 if. 

Utopias, 85 

Vico, G., 149, 196, 219 
Vitalism, 41 
WimlHbaml, W,, 235 
Wolfe, J. B., 46, 77 
Wblfilin, H„ 94 
Word (see Logos), magic and 
semantic function, 144. 
Wordsworth, 129, 181 
Xenophanes, 119, 129 
Xenophon, 22B 
Yrrkt'S, 46, 49, 5fin„ 6 in., 91 
Young, Edward, 195 
Zeus, 120 
Zola. E.j iflfi, 200 
Zoroastrianism, 131ft,